Feb. 12, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After a two-month hiatus from competitive action, the University of Notre Dame men’s golf team returns to the links Monday and Tuesday at The Match Play at the Reunion Resort Watson Course in Orlando, Fla., to kick off its spring schedule.
“I think there were several things that came out of the long break,” stated eighth-year head coach Jim Kubinski. “We had said at the time that the break came at a good time and the last couple of months have validated that thought. Paul was able to take care of a nagging wrist issue that plagued him all fall season. Tom was able to concentrate on making swing improvements that were just too difficult to accomplish while competing so often in our fall segment. I know Max, Chris and Niall improved some things, feel refreshed and are ready to compete.”
The format of The Match Play features a total of 12 teams competing in four total rounds of match-play action with two matches taking place on both Monday and Tuesday. The Irish open play as the top ranked (57th) team in the field according to the Golfstat rankings and overall No. 1 seed in the draw, earning a matchup against 256th-ranked Loyola-Chicago. The match gets underway beginning at 7:30 a.m. (ET) with the first tee time and runs through 8:05 a.m. The afternoon match then follows beginning at 12:30 p.m. against either Villanova or DePaul in a BIG EAST showdown.
“We’re looking at it as a chance to get out and compete,” remarked Kubinski. “Match play is a format now employed at the NCAA Finals, after stroke play qualifying, so this week is a nice opportunity to experience match play strategy. It can be different. Our approach though will be to focus on our game plan and execute. I don’t want our guys caught up in playing extra carefully or extra aggressively because of their opponent. We’ll hit the shots we see and are comfortable with. We’ll try to put pressure on our opponents with our consistency and not by trying to play above our heads. I liken it to the Yankees or Red Sox seeing so many pitches in baseball, wearing down their competition. We’ll avoid handing over holes to our opponents by staying disciplined, confident and playing to our strengths.”
The event also gives all teams a chance to play a six-man rotation as opposed to the typical five-count-four format during stroke play events. The five-man fall rotation featured by the Irish of Max Scodro (Chicago, Ill.), Tom Usher (Baildon, England), Chris Walker (The Woodlands, Texas), Paul McNamara III (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.) and Niall Platt (Santa Barbara, Calif.) welcomes Tyler Wingo (Fairfax, Va.) to his first travel event as a member of the team.
“It’s a six player event, similar to the format in the fall of 2009,” explained Kubinski. “Freshman Tyler Wingo will be making his debut in our travel lineup. I’m excited for Tyler. He has been playing very well of late. We’ve had the chance to play three times so far this month and Tyler has executed the shots. He looks solid in every area. I expect he’ll make nice contributions this week.”
An additional benefit to this week’s The Match Play is the chance for the Irish to play competitive rounds on the course that will play host to the 2012 BIG EAST Championship April 29-May 1. Notre Dame is one of a total of seven BIG EAST schools taking part in the tournament as all look to glean information of what to expect in a couple of months.
“A big reason we’ve entered this event, beyond the match play experience, is to see this golf course before BIG EAST,” said Kubinski. “As I eluded to above, we won’t alter our style of play too much this week. The opportunities to putt the greens and feel out lines during competition are important areas heading to the championship in late April. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to do so this week.”
Be sure to check back with UND.com for complete recaps of the Irish at the 2012 The Match Play.