Junior Carl Santos-Ocampo (a native of Naples, Fla.) will make his spring season debut and return to his home state this weekend as the Irish head to Delray Beach, Fla., for the inaugural FAU Spring Break Championship at Gleneagles Country Club.

Irish Close Out Busy Month Of March In South Florida

March 26, 2009

FAU Spring Break Championship
Friday-Sunday, March 27-29, 2009
Gleneagles Country Club — Legends Course
Delray Beach, Fla.
Par 72/6,723 yards

The Starting Lineup

Player                  Ht/Wt     Year       Hometown           Stroke Avg.1 - Doug Fortner        6-0/170   Junior     Tustin, Calif.     74.632 - Dustin Zhang        5-9/150   Sophomore  Calgary, Alberta   75.893 - Max Scodro          5-10/165  Freshman   Chicago, Ill.      74.864 - Carl Santos-Ocampo  5-8/155   Junior     Naples, Fla.       76.175 - Tom Usher           6-2/180   Freshman   Bradford, England  75.89

Irish Close Out Busy Month Of March In South Florida
Notre Dame heads back to the links for the fourth time in the past 18 days when it travels to Delray Beach, Fla., for the inaugural FAU Spring Break Championship, to be held Friday through Sunday at the Gleneagles Country Club/Legends Course (par 72/6,723 yards). The Irish also will begin intensifying their preparations for the BIG EAST Conference Championship, which is only three weeks away and will be held on the other side of the Sunshine State at Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City.

Notre Dame is coming off a difficult 18th-place finish (912, +48) at last weekend’s Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational in Statesboro, Ga. It ended up being a “Murphy’s Law” tournament for the Irish, beginning with the fact that head coach Jim Kubinski was not able to make the trip due to flu-like symptoms earlier in the week. Once competition got underway, Notre Dame played well from tee to fairway, but was undone by problems in the short game, particularly around the greens. Blustery conditions, coupled with a high-powered tournament field, also added to the list of challenges the Irish faced during their stay in the Peach State a week ago.

With the tight turnaround between events, Kubinski has altered this weekend’s lineup to add some fresh blood to the mix. Junior Carl Santos-Ocampo (76.17 stroke average), a native of Naples, Fla., and freshman Tom Usher (75.89) will make their spring debuts, joining three returning starters from last week. Junior Doug Fortner (74.63) is second on the team in stroke average this season, with a pair of top-10 finishes to his credit, while sophomore Dustin Zhang (75.89) has looked sharp in recent weeks, including a 26th-place tie at the Border Olympics on March 14 in Laredo, Texas. Freshman Max Scodro (74.86) was the hot hand for the Irish during the fall, sharing medalist honors at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship, and will look to regain some of that momentum this week.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“This is a brand new event and will be contested mostly amongst northern climate teams, which should be interesting. We’ve never played the golf course, but it looks to be a good test at a great club. With regard to our lineup, we’ve made a couple changes this week and I know the new additions are excited.

“Carl (Santos-Ocampo) has played very well of late. Over our spring break, he made it through the pre-qualifier for the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship in Tampa. In the Monday qualifier, he had it (one-under par) through 16 before a couple bad swings knocked him out. All in all, though, it was a great experience and showed once again how capable he is of playing strong stretches of golf against top competition. The U.S. Amateur last August also gave us evidence of this. We’re looking forward to getting him back to his home state this week.

“Our other new lineup addition this week, Tom Usher, has really been striking it well. Again, he’s yet another player who has worked very, very hard the last few months. Tom is a confident young player who brings an approach beyond his years. He does a great job of forming a game plan for the course to be played. I’d like him to rub off on our other guys in those ways. So much of our game is preparation and confidence.

“Dustin (Zhang) and Max (Scodro) have hit the ball beautifully. Dustin just needs a few putts to drop, as does Max. Last week, Max had one of his worst rounds, an 82, but it wasn’t his ball striking. He hit 15 greens that day, but endured 42 putts. For the event in Georgia, he hit 70 percent of his greens on the week, 90 percent when approaching from the fairway. He’s a good putter, always has been. Last week was an aberration. He has made a couple changes this week. I look for low scores from both Max and Dustin.

“Doug (Fortner) is as motivated as ever to bounce back from a hiccup in Georgia. All of his rounds came down to just a couple holes where he made mistakes. I wish I could have been in attendance to assist, but he learned a great deal on his own from the experience. He’s too good and too bright to make a habit of those mistakes. Doug will show what he can do this week.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play single rounds (18 holes) each day from Friday through Sunday. The first two rounds will feature split-tee starts from the No. 1 and No. 10 tees from 11:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m. (ET). Sunday’s final round will feature a similar split-tee start and will get underway in the window from 7:30-8:45 a.m. (ET), with exact tee times assigned based on the 36-hole tournament standings. All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.

Following The Irish
Live scoring for this weekend’s FAU Spring Break Championship will be offered through the Golfstat web site (www.golfstat.com). Complete results following each day of action will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com). The latest information from the tournament, including results, scheduling updates and weather delays, also will be provided on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000). Furthermore, results also will be available via the Irish ALERT text-message system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame’s progress at the FAU Spring Break Championship through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information, visit UND.com.

The Tournament Format
A total of 14 five-man teams (70 participants, plus the possibility of additional golfers who would be competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the FAU Spring Break Championship. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four scores in the five-man lineup for each round counting toward the team total. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis do not count to the team score.

The Teams
Besides tournament host Florida Atlantic, as well as Notre Dame, the remaining teams in the field for the FAU Spring Break Championship are: Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Marquette, Memphis, Michigan, Missouri, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, St. John’s and Wisconsin.

According to the March 11 edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll, Illinois is the lone ranked team in this week’s field. The Fighting Illini will head to Florida ranked sixth in the latest coaches’ poll.

Meanwhile, the March 22 ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index have Illinois rated 16th in the nation, while Iowa is also on the first page of the rankings at No. 50. Three others schools are knocking on the door of the Golfweek Top 50 — Michigan (51st), Ohio State (57th) and Northwestern (58th).

In addition, Wednesday’s updated Golfstat rankings indicate Illinois is the top-rated team in this weekend’s tournament, checking in at No. 20. Also appearing in the latest Golfstat Top 50 are Michigan (42nd) and Northwestern (48th), while Iowa (57th) and Ohio State (61st) aren’t far off the pace.

So far this season, Notre Dame has faced more than half (seven) of the other 13 teams it will see in this week’s FAU Spring Break Championship, going a combined 3-6-1 against Eastern Michigan (0-0-1), Iowa (0-2), Memphis (1-0), Michigan (1-1), Northwestern (0-1), St. John’s (1-0) and Wisconsin (0-2). The Irish defeated Michigan by seven shots in the Prestige at PGA WEST back in October, while finishing just one stroke behind Northwestern in the same tournament. Notre Dame then defeated Memphis (eight shots) and tied Eastern Michigan two weeks later at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship, where the Irish also wound up 16 strokes behind Michigan. Notre Dame then placed 17 shots ahead of St. John’s at the Red Storm’s Palmas del Mar Intercollegiate in Puerto Rico earlier this month. The losses to Iowa came in the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic (19 shots) and last week’s Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational (23 shots), while noth losses to UW were by close margins in Notre Dame’s first two events of the season (six shots at the USF Olympic Club Intercollegiate; nine shots at the Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Invitational).

The Course
Located in Delray Beach, Fla. (north of Boca Raton), the Gleneagles Country Club features two championship-style courses (Victory and Legends), both of which make extensive use of water in their layouts, with ponds, lakes or streams coming into play on 14 of the 18 holes on each course. Designed by Karl Litten and opening in 1985, the Legends course at Gleneagles offers Bermuda grass fairways and bent-grass greens, as well as numerous doglegs and the aforementioned water hazards, that will test each of the competitors at this weekend’s tournament.

When it first opened a quarter of a century ago, the Gleneagles facility also was the home of six golf legends, including Sam Snead and Billy Casper (who enrolled at Notre Dame in the fall of 1950 before leaving to serve his country in the Korean War). Likewise, tennis legends Ivan Lendl and Steffi Graf temporarily made their homes at the club while training during the off-season.

Last Time Out: Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational
Sophomore Jeff Chen finished in a tie for 50th place at eight-over par 224 (77-72-75) to lead the Notre Dame men’s golf team at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational, which was contested March 20-22 at the Forest Heights Country Club (par 72/6,947 yards) in Statesboro, Ga. The Irish wound up in 18th place at the tournament, carding a three-day total of 48-over par 912 (311-298-303).

Chen posted his second consecutive team-best finish this season, following a tie for 11th place at last week’s Border Olympics. Sophomore Dustin Zhang finished one shot back of Chen this week, sharing 55th place at nine-over par 225 (79-72-74). Junior Doug Fortner wrapped up the weekend in 87th place at 17-over par 233 (77-77-79), while freshman Max Scodro moved up into a tie for 88th place at 18-over par 234 (82-77-75). Sophomore Connor Alan-Lee completed the Irish scoring in a 90th-place tie at 19-over par 235 (78-77-80).

Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski did not make the trip to Georgia after suffering flu-like symptoms earlier in the week. Assistant coach Steve Colnitis took over the coaching reins in Kubinski’s absence.

Captains Courageous
Senior Josh Sandman (out for the year following off-season back surgery) and junior Olavo Batista are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2008-09 season. It’s the first time either man has been chosen to fill that role.

The .500 Rule
According to a rule passed by the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee prior to the 2007-08 season, teams must finish with a winning head-to-head record (i.e. better than .500) in order to be considered for a berth in postseason play. Notre Dame currently owns a 42-65-1 (.394) record against Division I opponents this season.

Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame has won six BIG EAST Conference titles in its 14-year league affiliation, stringing together three consecutive crowns from 1995-97 and again from 2004-06. The Irish also have made 33 NCAA postseason appearances in their history (most recently in 2006 with a trip to the NCAA East Regional), winning the 1944 national title and finishing second in 1937.
  • Notre Dame has taken its play to new levels in recent years, posting the three single-season stroke averages in school history since head coach Jim Kubinski took over as head coach in January 2005. The Irish also have carded 11 of the top 15 tournament scores (54 holes) in program history during the Kubinski era, including a school-record 842 (-22) at the 2006 BIG EAST Championship.
  • Notre Dame’s impressive resurgence of late has been augmented by its play against nationally-ranked opponents. In fact, since Kubinski arrived under the Golden Dome, the Irish have defeated 15 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 18 top-five tournament finishes, including three event titles (most recently the `06 BIG EAST Championship).
  • Kubinski himself was nominated for a place on the 2007 GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers List, after being placed into consideration by the Indiana Section of the PGA. Approximately 400-500 people are chosen annually from the 30,000 PGA professionals nationwide for a few select places on the GOLF Magazine list, whose membership includes such notables as Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Rick Smith.

He’s Bad, He’s Nationwide
Former Irish golfer Mark Baldwin (2002-06) carded a six-under par 66 on Monday to win one of two qualifiers for this week’s Nationwide Tour stop, the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Broussard, La. Baldwin will be making his first-ever appearance on the Nationwide Tour, which will grant a tour exemption through the end of the 2010 season to the winner, while the top 25 finishes will earn an exemption into the following week’s event in Hayward, Calif.

A three-time all-BIG EAST Conference honoree, Baldwin ranks 11th on the Irish career stroke average list (75.04) and fifth on the program’s single-season charts (73.17 in 2005-06). He also holds the school record for the lowest round, firing a seven-under par 63 in the first round of a 36-hole dual match against TCU on April 9, 2005, at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course.

Next Up: Robert Kepler Intercollegiate (April 11-12)
Notre Dame will play its lone Midwest tournament of the spring on April 11-12, when it travels to Columbus, Ohio, for the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate at the Ohio State Scarlet Course. Big Ten Conference teams will make up the majority of the field, including several squads competing alongside the Irish this weekend in Florida. In addition, Chattanooga, East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee are slated to make the trip to Columbus for the 40th annual tournament, which Notre Dame last played in 2007 (finishing 11th in the rain-shortened 36-hole event).

— ND —