Rising junior Carl Santos-Ocampo, who won the TPA at Windstar event earlier this summer, returns to campus on Tuesday for a U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier at Notre Dame's Warren Golf Course.

Irish Head To Georgia For Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational

March 13, 2008

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Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational
Friday-Sunday, March 14-16, 2008
9 a.m. (ET) Fri.-Sat./8 a.m. (ET) Sun.
Forest Heights Country Club – Statesboro, Ga.
Par 72/6,962 yards

Irish Head To Georgia For Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational
The Notre Dame men’s golf team continues its rugged coast-to-coast schedule this weekend when it travels to Statesboro, Ga., for the 29th annual Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, hosted by Georgia Southern. The Irish, who have played in Florida and California already this spring, will be making their first appearance in the event, which is named in honor of the late legendary broadcaster (and Indiana native) Chris Schenkel.

Notre Dame is coming off a 12th-place finish at the USC Collegiate Invitational back on March 3-4. The Irish will be looking to break through this weekend in a tournament that features seven Top 25 squads among its 18-team field. The tough opposition should come as no surprise to Notre Dame, with Irish having already competed in seven Top 40 tournaments in their first seven trips this year, including Top 25 events in the past three outings.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“Georgia Southern is our biggest event of the season. We’re on the NCAA bubble, and we need a solid finish in Statesboro against one of the strongest fields of the year. That’s nothing new for us, since both Sawgrass and USC’s events were also very strong. We need to pick up our play, though. Grabbing more wins than losses is imperative. Our young lineup has gained experience and I look for us to break out this week.

“We’re looking for a faster start than we’ve had. When we do get that solid start, it’ll give us the springboard we’ve needed. We’ve played with several top-ranked teams for a round or two. We just haven’t always started that well or put three good rounds together. However, we’re growing and once we get a little momentum, I expect these young guys to break out in a big way.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play single rounds (18 holes) on each day of the tournament, beginning at 9 a.m. (ET) on Friday and Saturday and at 8 a.m. on Sunday. All three rounds will use a split-tee start from the first and 10th holes — on Friday, Notre Dame will be paired Kentucky and LSU, beginning at 9:45 a.m. from the No. 10 tee and continuing at nine-minute intervals. Tee times for the final two rounds will be based on the team standings after the previous round’s play.

Following The Irish
Live scoring for the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational will be provided through the Golfstat web site (www.golfstat.com). In addition, complete results will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (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).

Furthermore, results will be available via the Irish ALERT text-message system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame’s progress at the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information or to sign up, visit the men’s golf page of the official Notre Dame athletics web site (UND.com).

The Tournament Format
A total of 18 five-man teams (90 participants, plus six additional golfers competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational. 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 Notre Dame and tournament host Georgia Southern, the remaining teams in the 18-team field for the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational are: Alabama, UAB, Auburn, Augusta State, Boston College, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

According to the latest edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll that was released Wednesday, seven ranked teams will be competing in this weekend’s tournament — top-ranked Alabama, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 10 Florida, No. 11 Auburn, No. 15 Michigan State, No. 16 South Carolina and No. 23 North Carolina. What’s more, UAB also has earned 10 points in this week’s poll, which would put the Blazers in a tie for 35th if the poll were extended.

Meanwhile, Sunday night’s ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that a full two-thirds of this weekend’s field (12 teams) are ranked among the top 50 in the nation. Seven of those teams are in the Golfweek Top 25: No. 2 Alabama, No. 8 Tennessee, No. 11 Auburn, No. 12 Florida, No. 15 Michigan State, No. 20 South Carolina and No. 23 North Carolina. Also on the first page of the rankings are: UAB (29th), North Carolina State (38th), Augusta State (44th), North Florida (46th) and LSU (48th).

In addition, Wednesday’s updated Golfstat rankings also indicate 12 of this weekend’s participants are appearing in that service’s Top 50. Top-ranked Alabama sets the bar, followed by No. 6 Auburn, No. 9 Florida, No. 13 Tennessee, No. 17 South Carolina and No. 18 Michigan State. The second half of the rankings leaderboard includes: No. 27 North Carolina, No. 31 UAB, No. 40 North Florida, No. 41 North Carolina State, No. 47 Augusta State and No. 50 LSU.

Notre Dame has previously faced 12 of the other 17 teams in this weekend’s field during the 2007-08 season, compiling a 3-11-2 (.250) record against those schools. For the season, the Irish are 35-52-4 (.407) against Division I varsity opponents, with a 6-37-3 (.163) record against Golfweek Top 50 clubs (1-19 vs. the Top 25).

The Course
Recognized as one of the finest courses in the Southeast, the Forest Heights Country Club is located in Statesboro, Ga., and has played host to the Southern Conference Tournament, the Georgia State Golf Association Four-Ball Tournament and the Southeastern Amateur, as well as the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational.

Forest Heights opened in 1947 and was designed by George W. Cobb. It features wide, tree-lined fairways that allow for forgiveness off the tee, but the real challenge of this course lies on its undulating greens. Water also will come into play on a handful of holes, especially on the back nine.

Noting The Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational

  • Notre Dame is participating in the tournament, hosted by Georgia Southern, for the first time. In recent years, the Irish have traveled to the Peach State during the spring, but it’s been to play in Augusta State’s tournament, which usually takes place around the first weekend in April. This year, Notre Dame had to forgo that event as it will be hosting the first-ever Irish Spring Invitational (a 36-hole event) on April 5 at the Warren Golf Course on the Notre Dame campus.
  • For the first time this spring, the Irish have changed around their travel squad for this weekend’s tournament. Sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo gets the call in the No. 3 position, making his first varsity start since the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic back in the fall. Santos-Ocampo has looked sharp in two spring tournaments this year (once as an individual, once on the “B” team) with a 74.50 stroke average and a tie for 10th place with a career-low 221 (+8) at the Charleston Southern Spring Kickoff on March 3-4.
  • With the addition of Santos-Ocampo to the lineup, Notre Dame will feature arguably the youngest starting five at the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, with two freshmen and two sophomores making up the bulk of the Irish travel squad.

Last Time Out: USC Collegiate Invitational
Paced by a third-place tie from junior Josh Sandman, Notre Dame finished in 12th place at the USC Collegiate Invitational, which wrapped up March 4 at the North Ranch Country Club (par 71/6,869 yards) in Westlake Village, Calif. The Irish shot a three-round total of 73-over par 925 (318-302-305) at the 14-team event, which was won by the host school with a score of 885 (+33).

Sandman carded a seven-over par 220 (72-75-73) at the USC tournament to post his highest individual finish since a career-best runner-up showing at the 2006 Boilermaker Invitational. The Notre Dame veteran ended the tournament just two shots behind medalist Tim Sluiter of USC (218, +5), who competed as an individual participant and outdistanced the 80-man field.

Sophomore Doug Fortner ended up in a 39th-place tie during his homecoming, shooting a 17-over par 230 (81-74-75) after fighting through blustery conditions during the opening round. Another southern California native, freshman Connor Alan-Lee tied with sophomore teammate Kyle Willis in 56th place at 21-over par 234 — both players carded rounds of 82-75-77 during the tournament. Willis was making his spring season debut and played as an individual. Senior tri-captain Greg Rodgers finished tied for 75th place at 30-over par 243 (85-78-80), while freshman Tyler Hock completed the Irish scoring in 77th place at 32-over par 245 (83-81-81).

Young Guns
Notre Dame has gotten a significant boost from its underclassmen, with its two lowest scorers (and five of the top six) being either freshmen or sophomores. Freshman Jeff Chen (73.67) has played exclusively as an individual or “B” team member, while sophomore Doug Fortner (73.68) and junior Josh Sandman (74.00) have been the cornerstones of the Irish varsity squad. Sophomore Kyle Willis (75.08), freshman Tyler Hock (75.56) and sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo (75.75) also have contributed on the Notre Dame travel squad, with each making at least one varsity start this year.

Captains Courageous
Notre Dame’s three seniors have been selected as team captains for the 2007-08 season. Mike King, Eddie Peckels and Greg Rodgers all are serving in that capacity for the first time in their careers.

The .500 Rule
According to a new rule passed by the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee, teams must finish with a winning head-to-head record (i.e. better than .500) against Division I varsity opposition to be considered for a berth in postseason play. Notre Dame currently has a 35-52-4 (.407) record this season.

Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame has won six BIG EAST Conference titles in its 12-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 three of the top seven 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 nine of the top 12 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 14 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 14 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.

Next Up: National Invitational Tournament (March 23-25)
Notre Dame heads to the Valley of the Sun for the National Invitational Tournament, to be held March 23-25 at the Arizona National Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz. Among the schools joining the Irish and host Arizona in this year’s field are Arizona State, Iowa, New Mexico, UNLV, Tulsa and Virginia.

— ND —