April 28, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The newly-crowned BIG EAST Conference champion Notre Dame men’s golf team will wrap up the 2003-04 regular season this weekend when it heads to East Lansing, Mich., for the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational, hosted by Michigan State University. The Irish are competing in the event for the third consecutive season, having tied for 12th place in 2002 and finishing 10th last year. This weekend’s tournament will take place at the par 72, 7,013-yard Forest Akers West Golf Course in East Lansing.
Dates and Times: Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday and come back for the final 18 holes on Sunday. During Saturday’s first two rounds, teams will go off via a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. EST in South Bend). On Sunday, the teams will once again tee off in a shotgun format beginning at 9 a.m. EDT (8 a.m. EST in South Bend).
The Course: This weekend’s tournament will be contested at the par 72, 7,013-yard Forest Akers West Golf Course in East Lansing, Mich. It has been home to the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational since its inception and also plays host to a sister tournament in the fall for the MSU women’s golf team (the tourney is named after the former Spartan coach Mary Fossum). Notre Dame’s women’s team competed in the Mary Fossum Invitational back in September and tied for sixth in the 16-team field.
The Teams: This year’s Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational features a 14-team field that also includes Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Toledo and Wisconsin. All 14 teams in the tournament are from the Midwest District and this weekend’s event historically has proven to be the final tune-up for many programs before the NCAA Regionals begin in two weeks.
Minnesota is the highest-ranked team in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings, placing 11th in the country. Other Top 50 programs in this weekend’s tournament include No. 36 Toledo, No. 42 Northwestern, No. 44 Indiana, No. 48 Illinois and No. 49 Ohio State. By contrast, Notre Dame currently is 86th in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings.
Notre Dame has posted a 6-16-1 record against the field at this year’s Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational. All told, the Irish are 7-28-1 against the Midwest District in 2003-04.
Irish At The Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational: The Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational has existed in some form since 1966, with this year’s event marking the 37th renewal of the tournament. The event was originally known as the Spartan Invitational before taking on the name of the former MSU golf coach in 1992. The tournament then took on its current title in 2002.
Regardless of its various forms, Notre Dame has appeared in Michigan State’s spring tournament 11 times, including the last two years. The Irish first played in the event in 1969, then came back for eight more appearances from 1978-89, winning the tournament title in 1986. After a 13-year hiatus, Notre Dame returned to East Lansing in 2002 (tied for 12th place) and 2003 (10th place). In all, Notre Dame has earned four top-five finishes at the MSU tournament – fourth in 1969, third in 1979, fifth in 1980 and first in 1986.
Tournament Results: A live look at the final-round leaderboard from the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational will be available on Sunday through the Michigan State athletics web site (www.msuspartans.com). In addition, results from the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational will be available on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com) upon completion of action on both days of the tournament. Updates from the tournament also will be posted on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000) as they are available.
Irish Lineup: In the past two seasons, the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational has been an opportunity for some of the other members of the Notre Dame roster to compete in a tournament setting. This year looks to be no different, as third-year head coach John Jasinski has chosen to rest his regular starting five with an eye on the NCAA Regionals May 20-22. As such, this weekend’s Irish lineup will four golfers who have competed in a combined total of two tournaments this year, including two players who have yet to tee it up for Notre Dame in 2003-04. Three players from northern Indiana also are featured in this weekend’s quintet.
Freshman Shane Sigsbee (McKinney, Texas/McKinney HS) has the most playing experience for the Irish this season. In his rookie campaign, he has competed in six tournaments, posting a 77.50 stroke average, with his best finish being a tie for third place at The Tillinghast in October. Senior captain Gavin Ferlic (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian HS) and freshman walk-on Adam Gifford (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth HS) both have played in one tournament this year. Playing as an individual competitor, Ferlic tied for 76th place at 34-over par 250 in the Rice Intercollegiate back in February, while Gifford was second among Irish golfers (tied for 49th overall) with a 21-over par 234 at the season-opening Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational last September in Toledo, Ohio.
Rounding out the Irish lineup this weekend will be a pair of golfers who have not yet seen the course this year. Junior K.C. Wiseman (South Bend, Ind./Riley HS) has participated in 10 tournaments during his first two years at Notre Dame, owning a 77.34 career stroke average, with his best finish being a tie for 20th place at the 2002 Treasure Cove Classic. He will be competing for the Irish for the first time since last year’s Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational, where he placed 59th overall at 17-over par 233. Meanwhile, sophomore Federico Salazar (Bogota, Colombia/St. Andrews (Fla.) HS) will make his collegiate debut this weekend. Salazar was a prep standout who played alongside current teammate Tommy Balderston after moving to Delray Beach, Fla., prior to his junior year of high school.
Last Tournament: For the first time in 38 years, the Notre Dame men’s golf team is headed to the NCAA Championship, booking its spot in the national tournament with a six-stroke victory at the 2004 BIG EAST Conference Championship, which concluded April 25 at the Warren Golf Course in South Bend. Notre Dame trailed three-time defending league champion Virginia Tech by five strokes coming into Sunday’s third round, and was four shots behind at the turn, but outscored the Hokies by 10 strokes over the final nine holes to claim its fourth BIG EAST title and first since 1997.
The Irish finished the three-round event at 36-over par 876 (290-295-291), with the first and third-round scores serving as two of the top three single-round marks in the tournament. Notre Dame’s 54-hole mark of 876 also was its lowest total of the spring, second-lowest tally of the 2003-04 season, and the ninth-lowest figure in school history.
Three Irish golfers earned all-conference honors this year, led by sophomore Tommy Balderston (Boca Raton, Fla./St. Andrews HS), who garnered his second all-BIG EAST award after tying for third place at eight-over par 218 (74-73-71). Balderston’s final-round 71 matched the lowest score by any player in the field on Sunday and his 54-hole score of 218 equalled his best mark of the spring season. Meanwhile, freshman Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian HS) continued his impressive rookie campaign, tying Balderston for third at eight-over 218 (69-75-74), also his lowest tournament score of the spring.
Sophomore Eric Deutsch (Rochester, Minn./Lourdes HS) was the third all-BIG EAST choice for Notre Dame, saving his best performance of the spring season for this weekend. Deutsch picked up his first all-conference plaque after tying for fifth place at nine-over par 219 (74-71-74), a full 13 strokes better than his previous low score in the spring. Sophomore Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H./New Hampton Prep) nearly received his second all-BIG EAST citation in as many years, finishing just out of the top seven in an eighth-place tie at 13-over par 223 (74-76-73). Sophomore Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie HS) rounded out the Irish lineup in 11th place at 14-over par 224 (73-78-73).
Tough Schedule: No one can say Notre Dame has backed away from top competition this year. In fact, during the course of the 2003-04 season, the Irish have faced 44 of the top 50 teams in the country, according to the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index rankings. Notre Dame also has played seven of the top 10 teams in that poll, as well as 14 of the 18 teams that competed in last year’s NCAA Championships, including the top four finishers (national champion Clemson, runner-up Oklahoma State, third-place UCLA and fourth-place Wake Forest).
Opening Strong: The Irish have posted their best team scores during the first round of tournament play this year, carding a 298.55 over the opening 18 holes. Leading the charge in the first round have been sophomore Scott Gustafson (73.91) and freshman Cole Isban (74.64).
Making It Count: Freshman Cole Isban has been particularly efficient in his rookie season at Notre Dame. The South Bend native has seen 93.5 percent of his rounds (29 of 31) count towards the team score in 2003-04. Sophomore Scott Gustafson isn’t far behind Isban with 87.5 percent of his rounds (28 of 32) counting this year.
Team Records Watch: Notre Dame has recorded a 300.00 stroke average in 2003-04, which is the fifth-best team total in school history, and the best in the three-year tenure of head coach John Jasinski (previous: 300.14 in 2001-02). The top scoring mark in the program’s history is a 298.29 average, set by the 1999-2000 squad.
Individual Records Watch: Sophomore Scott Gustafson’s current 74.03 season stroke average is fifth-best in school history, while freshman Cole Isban’s 74.84 mark is good for 16th on the Irish single-season charts. Only five times in Notre Dame’s 75-year golf history have two teammates posted sub-75 scoring averages for an entire season – 1955-56 (Joe Grace – 73.13 and Charles Thurn – 73.88), 1997-98 (Willie Kent – 74.07 and Todd Vernon – 74.59), 1998-99 (Kent – 74.76 and Brad Hardin – 74.81), 1999-00 (Vernon – 74.18 and Steve Ratay – 74.54) and 2000-01 (Ratay – 73.68 and Alex Kent – 74.18). Another stat to watch is Tommy Balderston’s current 75.10 stroke average … Notre Dame has never had three players card sub-75 scoring averages for an entire campaign.
Head Coach John Jasinski: Closing out his third season at Notre Dame, head coach John Jasinski has the Irish pointed squarely in the direction of championship gold. In his first three years under the Golden Dome, Jasinski has guided Notre Dame to its fourth BIG EAST Championship (first since 1997) and its first NCAA Championship appearance since 1966. He also has been responsible for helping his charges post three of the top eight single-season team stroke averages in school history. In addition, under Jasinski’s watch, Notre Dame has won two tournaments for the first time since 1999-2000 – besides the BIG EAST win, an Irish lineup with three sophomores and two freshmen paced Notre Dame to its first tournament title of any kind since 1999 with a one-stroke win at the SMU/Stonebridge Invitational back in October.
Prior to his arrival at Notre Dame, Jasinski spent nine seasons as the head coach at Toledo, leading the Rockets to four consecutive trips in the NCAA Championships, including three berths in the finals from 1999-2001.
Next For The Irish: Notre Dame will await the announcement of the field for the 2004 NCAA Championship – the teams will be unveiled in a conference call on Monday, May 10 at 5 p.m. CDT/EST. A total of 81 teams, evenly divided among three regional sites, will compete May 20-22 to determine the final 30 teams that will advance to the NCAA national tournament. The Irish are expected to be placed in the Central Regional, which will be held on the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. The other two regional sites are New Haven, Conn. (Yale Golf Course) and Sunriver, Ore. (Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort).
– ND –