March 20, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With its nine-day Spring Break road trip, which included tournament stops on opposite sides of the country, now in the past, the University of Notre Dame men’s golf team has shifted its focus to this week’s Lone Star Invitational in San Antonio, Texas. The Spring Break slate yielded mixed results for the Irish, including a seventh place finish at the Lamkin San Diego Classic and a fifth place result earlier this week in Naples, Fla. at the Talis Park Challenge.
Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski feels that his team, while not reaching all of its goals during the trip, responded well in the face of adversity from moment one of the trek to San Diego two weekends ago.
“We looked at it as an opportunity to have a couple good finishes and get back to a good place in the rankings where it is reasonable for us to push into the NCAA tournament, regardless of the ACC Championship,” Kubinski said. “San Diego was one of those tournaments, we ended up sixth the first day, and you don’t want to make excuses ever, but three of our five guys just really weren’t themselves. They were very sick, and otherwise maybe we are in the top five for that final round and playing a solid tournament, moving up in the rankings. We just dropped a little bit, down to seventh, but I was proud of the boys for the effort they gave out there, they played hard.
“Moving over to Naples, we put ourselves in a decent position, but we were a little too far back from the lead,” he said. “We felt being two shots out of second that we could have a solid second place finish for sure, maybe even cut into Vanderbilt’s margin, and who knows. We got off to a reasonable start on Monday, and then we just ran into a tough stretch at the middle portion and the end of the round for a couple guys, and we dropped back to fifth. The goal right now is to finish the last three tournaments in a good way and go into the ACC Championship with some momentum.”
One constant around the leaderboard for Notre Dame throughout both tournaments, as has been the case the majority of his career, was senior tri-captain Niall Platt. Platt battled through a stomach illness to a tie for 13th place at the San Diego Classic before posting his best finish of the year at Talis Park. Rounds of 74-70-73 (217) tied the Santa Barbara, Calif. native for third place, two strokes behind the tournament co-medalists.
“Niall has a chance to become our all-time leading scorer this spring, he’s neck-and-neck with Max Scodro (’12), but regardless of how that turns out, Niall has been our most consistent player since he arrived here,” Kubinski said. “Just counting it this weekend, 56 percent of his rounds as a collegiate player have been 73 or below, and that is in all sorts of conditions. Late fall, early spring, playing Kiawah, Crooked Stick, all of the tough courses we have played over the years multiple times. For him to be posting those numbers in those difficult setups says a lot not only about his game and the consistency of it, but really his determination.
“This weekend, just watching him come in at Naples, Niall had some really difficult up and downs where the greens were rolling at 13 (on the stimpmeter), winds blowing at 30, putting the ball where if it doesn’t get to the edge or catches an edge, it rolls off the green because they are so fast,” Kubinski added. “What is neat about Niall is in those situations, where a lot of players get frustrated or distracted, he focuses in even more brilliantly. He really has total focus on the shot he is facing, and he just competes, probably as hard as any player we have ever had. I’m so proud of him, it’s been fun to have him these last four years.”
Junior Patrick Grahek made his second and third starts of the season in the Notre Dame lineup at both tournaments, and posted the best finish of his collegiate career earlier in the week at the Talis Park Challenge, joining Platt in the top 10 with a share of seventh place (74-72-74-220). The result helped to cement the Alpharetta, Ga. native’s place in the Irish starting five.
“I think Patrick’s confidence is growing each time out,” Kubinski said. “He really has believed all along that he belongs in the starting lineup, it was only a matter of establishing consistency to maintain that spot. He had an opportunity last spring at Irish Creek, but in the final round he fell back a bit. This semester, he has strung together very consistent rounds and is hitting the ball as well as I have ever seen him.
“Patrick hadn’t eaten in two or three days going to San Diego, and his scores for the week were better than the field average,” Kubinski said. “This past week, to finish in the top 10, he played a fantastic final round of golf in tough conditions on Monday. We are proud of the strides he has made, the work he has done, and he is certainly an important part of our lineup right now.”
Notre Dame now readies itself for next week’s Lone Star Invitational, which will take place at the Golf Club at Briggs Ranch in San Antonio. Getting right back to work, and taking any opportunity to second guess the first two tournaments of the spring season, is what Kubinski hopes will work in favor of the Irish.
“It’s good for us that there is a quick turnaround, we don’t really have time to feel badly about our final round,” he said. “It’s good to get a few days of rest, which we are doing, since it was a long trip away from home for nine days, and the guys are getting caught up with their school work. The team is looking forward to getting it back together when we go down to San Antonio on Saturday, learning the golf course and doing a great job this weekend.”
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant