Junior Greg Rodgers will be back in the Irish lineup for the second consecutive week after posting a season-best 72 in the final round of last weekend's Boilermaker Invitational.

Irish Head To Columbus For Final Pre-BIG EAST Event

April 13, 2007

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Kepler Intercollegiate
Saturday-Sunday, April 14-15, 2007
8:30 a.m. (ET) both days
Ohio State Golf Club/Scarlet Course
Columbus, Ohio
Par 71/7,454 yards

Irish Head To Columbus For Final Pre-BIG EAST Event
With the BIG EAST Conference Championship looming on the horizon, Notre Dame aims to sharpen its game at this weekend’s Kepler Intercollegiate, hosted by Ohio State at the OSU Golf Club’s Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. The Irish will face many of the same Midwest District (and Big Ten Conference) squads they saw at last weekend’s Boilermaker Invitational, where Notre Dame tied for eighth place in the 15-team field. Another team in this week’s OSU field is BIG EAST rival (and 20th-ranked) Louisville, whom the Irish will see again next week at the conference tournament.

Quoting Coach Kubinski …
“We’re looking for a solid finish to our regular season with the championship season right around the corner. Ohio State’s Scarlet Course should provide an outstanding test. Jack Nicklaus finished a year-long renovation and restoration last spring just in time for the ’06 NCAA Women’s Championship and the course drew very positive reviews. This will be the first men’s event they’ve hosted, so everyone is curious as to how it will play. If it’s like most great Nicklaus designs, I anticipate a great event. Typically, the high ball hitter has the edge but, given the weather forecasts, hitting the ball high may not be the order of the day. It’ll be a championship test where par will most likely be a meaningful score.

“Our lineup will remain the same as it was for Purdue’s event. Greg Rodgers really gave us a lift in the final round, with a 72 that not only led the way for us, but was also one of the day’s lowest scores. Cole (Isban) is playing well, and Giff (Adam Gifford) has been a consistent force in our lineup. I’d like to see Josh (Sandman) and Doug (Fortner) really step up this weekend. They’re both capable of posting rounds under par.

“We’ve played one or two solid rounds at each of our events. We keep showing great signs. In single rounds, we’ve defeated several top teams this year, such as UCLA, Clemson and North Carolina. We just need to play a full 54 holes, and if we can do that in Columbus, we’ll have a chance to win.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. (ET) with a shotgun start to the first round. The second round will get underway immediately following the conclusion of the opening round. Teams then will return to the course for Sunday’s final round, starting at 8 a.m. (ET) with pre-assigned tee times based upon the 36-hole standings. All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.

Following The Irish
Live in-progress scoring from the Kepler Intercollegiate will be available through the Golfstat web site (www.golfstat.com). In addition, complete results following each day’s 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 available on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000).

New this year is the Irish ALERT system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame’s progress at the Kepler Intercollegiate through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information or to register for this free service, visit the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com).

The Tournament Format
A total of 16 five-man teams (80 participants, plus the possibility of some additional golfers competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the Kepler Intercollegiate. 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 (a group that includes Notre Dame junior Mike King) will not count to the team score.

The Teams
Besides Notre Dame and tournament host Ohio State, the remaining teams in the field for the Kepler Intercollegiate are: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Marshall, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio, Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina, SMU and Wisconsin.

According to the latest edition of the Golf World/Nike Top 25 coaches poll (released April 4), one ranked team – No. 19 Louisville – will be competing in this weekend’s tournament. However, four other participating squads are receiving votes in the latest coaches’ balloting – Notre Dame (nine votes, tie-32nd), Wisconsin (nine votes, tie-32nd), Indiana (eight votes, tie-34th) and Michigan State (one vote, tie-39th).

Meanwhile, Monday’s updated ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that seven of the top 50 teams will be on hand for the Kepler Intercollegiate. No. 20 Louisville is the highest-ranked team in this week’s field, with Michigan State (31st), SMU (32nd) and Wisconsin (33rd) next on the list. No. 39 Northwestern, 41st-ranked South Carolina and No. 48 Purdue are the other first-page teams in the tournament, with Indiana (53rd) and Notre Dame (59th) knocking on the door.

In addition, the most recent Golfstat rankings (unveiled Wednesday) indicate seven of this week’s participants appearing in that service’s Top 50. Louisville (20th) also heads up this group, followed by No. 30 Michigan State, 37th-ranked Wisconsin and No. 39 Northwestern. Others in the Golfstat first division are No. 41 South Carolina, 42nd-ranked SMU and No. 50 Purdue, while Indiana (51st) is just off the cut line and Notre Dame (62nd) isn’t far behind.

Notre Dame has faced 10 of the other 15 schools competing in the Kepler Intercollegiate this season, amassing a combined 4-16-1 (.214) record against those clubs. The Irish record vs. the field breaks down this way: Illinois (2-0), Indiana (0-2), Michigan (0-2), Michigan State (0-2), Northwestern (0-3), Ohio State (0-2), Purdue (0-2), South Carolina (1-2), SMU (0-1) and Wisconsin (1-0-1).

It should also be noted that, like Notre Dame, 12 of the other 15 teams in this week’s field are based in the Midwest District, with the Irish going 6-15-1 (.295) against the district this season. The NCAA Men’s Golf Championship Selection Committee allocates a minimum number of selections for each of the country’s nine districts for NCAA regional play, with the Midwest given at least six berths in the regionals.

The Course
The Kepler Intercollegiate will be played on the Scarlet Course (par 71/7,484 yards) at the Ohio State Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio. The on-campus layout was designed by Alistar McKenzie and Perry Maxwell in 1938 and underwent a significant restoration in 2005-06 under the watchful eye of golf legend (and OSU alum) Jack Nicklaus. The changes focused on returning the course to its original layout, including bunker modifications and extending its length to more than 7,400 yards, while also changing it to a par-71 course. The Scarlet Course is considered to be among the premier on-campus college courses in the nation, and has played host to numerous national championships, both at the NCAA and USGA levels.

A History Lesson
Ohio State has been a regular stop on the Notre Dame men’s golf schedule through the years. In fact, since tournaments replaced match play in 1968-69, the Irish have competed in the OSU spring tournament 29 times, including 22 out of 23 years from 1969-92. More recently, Notre Dame has appeared in the event five times in the past decade, including a 2003 visit when the Irish tied for 13th place at 936 (+72).

Through the years, the best Notre Dame finish in the Ohio State tournament has been a fourth-place showing in 1978, while the best Irish team score was 895 (+31) en route to sixth-place honors in 1998.

Last Time Out: Boilermaker Invitational
Junior Greg Rodgers carded a season-low 72 in the final round, helping Notre Dame jump up into a tie for eighth place at the Boilermaker Invitational, which concluded April 8 on the Kampen Course (par 72/7,338 yards) at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. The Irish shot a 34-over par 610 (316-294) in the weather-shortened 36-hole event, finishing even with Wisconsin after posting the fourth-lowest team score of the final round – Michigan State took the team title at 593 (+17).

Senior All-America candidate Cole Isban was Notre Dame’s top individual finisher, sharing 15th place at six-over par 150 (76-74). Isban wound up eight strokes behind medalist Ryan Brehm of Michigan State (142, -2), while posting his eighth top-20 finish of the season.

Sophomore Josh Sandman fired a sharp final-round 73 and moved up to tie for 24th place at eight-over par 152 (79-73). Sandman now has placed in the top 25 at seven of 10 tournaments this year, including two of the past three events.

Rodgers, who was playing in his first tournament of the spring, made the biggest jump for the Irish on Sunday, vaulting into a 36th-place deadlock at 10-over par 154 (82-72). Prior to Sunday, Rodgers had not seen action since the CordeValle Collegiate in late October and his previous low round of the year was a 74 (+2) that he established on four occasions.

Senior co-captain Adam Gifford finished in a tie for 43rd place at 11-over par 155 (80-75), while freshman Doug Fortner completed the Irish scoring in a tie for 64th place at 15-over par 159 (81-78).

Three Tournaments, Three Aces For Irish
It would be difficult to script a much better start than Notre Dame freshmen Doug Fortner and Carl Santos-Ocampo experienced this fall. Between them, the two Irish rookies fired three aces in their first three tournaments, including matching holes-in-one in their respective college debuts 10 days apart.

Fortner was the first to card a “single” on Sept. 16 in the second round of the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn., pulling out a pitching wedge and sinking his tee shot on the par-3, 139-yard 17th hole at the Spring Hill Golf Club. Not to be outdone, Santos-Ocampo made his mark in the final round of the John Dallio Memorial (a “B” team event for the Irish) in West Chicago, Ill., using a 7-iron to bury his tee shot on the par-3, 175-yard third hole at the Prairie Landing Golf Club.

Santos-Ocampo was at it again on Oct. 10 in the final round of the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. Playing into a stiff breeze, the diminutive Notre Dame freshman took an 8-iron to the tee of the par-3, fourth hole at the Warren Golf Course and promptly buried his 136-yard tee shot.

Both Fortner and Santos-Ocampo were featured in the Oct. 30 edition of Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” for their accomplishment, which is believed to be the first of its kind in NCAA Division I history.

Other Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame is the three-time defending BIG EAST Conference champion (and three-time NCAA regional qualifier), winning the 2006 BIG EAST title with a dramatic 12-stroke comeback (second-largest in school and league history) in the final round to defeat Louisville on the first playoff hole. The Irish joined St. John’s as the only programs in the 26-year history of the BIG EAST Championship to win three consecutive titles on two separate occasions. The Irish recorded their first hat trick from 1995-97, while St. John’s posted a pair of “four-peats” from 1981-84 and 1986-89.
  • Senior Cole Isban is a prime candidate to become Notre Dame’s first All-American since 1980 (John Lundgren – honorable mention), coming off consecutive selections to the PING All-Midwest Region Team. Isban owns the school’s single-season stroke average record and is second in career stroke average at Notre Dame (see chart on page 3), has qualified for the last three U.S. Amateur Championships, and is ranked among the top 65 players in the nation, according to the latest Golfweek (64th) and Golfstat (52nd) rankings (as of Monday).

Next Up: BIG EAST Championship (April 22-24)
Three-time defending BIG EAST Conference champion Notre Dame will look to make it four titles in a row when it travels to Louisville, Ky., April 22-24 for the BIG EAST Championship, to be held at the Cardinal Club. Last year, the Irish shot a school-record 272 in the final round (842 for the tournament) to rally from 12 shots back and force a sudden-death playoff. Notre Dame then defeated Louisville on the first extra hole to take home the hardware and secure the program’s third consecutive NCAA regional berth.