Sophomore Jeff Chen fired a team-low 74 (+3) in Sunday's final round of the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio, securing his fourth top-25 finish in seven tournaments this season.

Irish Head To Ohio State For Final Pre-BIG EAST Event

April 10, 2009

Robert Kepler Intercollegiate
Saturday-Sunday, April 11-12, 2009
Ohio State Golf Club — Scarlet Course
Columbus, Ohio
Par 71/7,455 yards

The Starting Lineup

Player                  Ht/Wt     Year      Hometown           Stroke Avg.1 - Doug Fortner        6-0/170   Junior    Tustin, Calif.     74.562 - Carl Santos-Ocampo  5-8/155      Junior    Naples, Fla.       76.003 - Tom Usher           6-2/180      Freshman  Bradford, England  75.334 - Olavo Batista       5-11/175  Junior    Sao Paulo, Brazil  77.565 - Jeff Chen           5-11/165  Sophomore Walnut, Calif.     74.06

Notre Dame Set For Final Tournament Before BIG EAST Championship
One last chance — that’s what the Notre Dame men’s golf team will have to tune up its game before heading to this year’s BIG EAST Conference Championship. The Irish will return to the links this weekend when they travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the 40th annual Robert Kepler Intercollegiate on the Scarlet Course (par 71/7,455 yards) at the Ohio State Golf Club.

The past two tournaments have been anything but kind to Notre Dame, with the Irish coming off a 10th-place finish (892/+40) at the FAU Spring Break Championship on March 27-29 in Delray Beach, Fla. In a season filled with near-misses, this tournament may have been one of the more frustrating ones, as Notre Dame was on the verge of a solid upper-division finish against a strong field, but played the last four holes in the final round at 13-over par, dropping the Irish two spots in the final team standings. Still, Notre Dame has registered a 297.44 stroke average this year, which currently stands as the fourth-best season mark in school history.

Although there are no active seniors on this year’s roster, Notre Dame will send a veteran lineup to Columbus this week with three juniors among the starting five. Returning all-BIG EAST selection Doug Fortner (74.56 stroke average) is second on the team in stroke average and has a pair of top-10 finishes to his credit, including a tie for fourth at the spring-opening Palmas del Mar Intercollegiate. Carl Santos-Ocampo (76.00) tied for 56th place at the FAU tourney, while co-captain Olavo Batista (77.56) earns his second career start after a tie for 54th place at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship back in October. Sophomore Jeff Chen (74.06) is one of Notre Dame’s most improved players this season, leading the team in stroke average and chalking up three top-25 finishes, including a tie for 11th place at the Border Olympics last month. Freshman Tom Usher (75.33) also showed promise in his spring debut at the FAU Spring Break Championship, carding a season-low 221 (+8) on the way to a team-best tie for 27th place.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“We’re looking forward to playing in Columbus this weekend. The Scarlet Course has an impressive history and, having competed on Jack Nicklaus’ redesigned work there, it’s one of the most challenging golf courses anywhere. If it ever played firm and fast, you might hit a few short irons, but that’s never the case. It’ll be a long golf course requiring sound mid to long iron play. We’ll need to drive it in the fairway to control our approaches. The greens are big, but the effective green areas are very small. We must hit to the correct zones on the greens to score.

“Our lineup will include three juniors for the first time this season with Doug (Fortner), Carl (Santos-Ocampo) and Olavo (Batista) competing. We’ll also have sophomore Jeff Chen, who leads us in scoring average this year, and freshman Tom Usher in the lineup. I’m looking for those guys to go out and compete much harder than we’ve shown in our last couple outings. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it almost sounds `old school’ to talk about working hard, competing hard and demanding more of oneself, but that’s what I’m demanding from our team. It’s time we get a little tougher out there. It’s time we represent the spirit of Notre Dame. It’s a process, but that process starts now. We’re not talking about our youth or our physical talent anymore. We’re talking about desire and hard work and believing. Win or lose, we’re going to fight hard. We’re going to compete.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, with the morning round teeing off via a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. (ET) and featuring continuous play into the afternoon’s second round. Sunday’s final round will feature a split-tee start and will get underway in the window from 8:30-10:39 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 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate will be offered through the Golfstat web site ( Complete results following both days of action will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site ( 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 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information, visit

The Tournament Format
A total of 13 five-man teams (65 participants, plus the possibility of additional golfers who would be competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the Robert 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 do not count to the team score.

The Teams
Besides tournament host Ohio State, as well as Notre Dame, the remaining teams in the field for the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate are: East Tennessee State, Eastern Michigan, Iowa, Kent State, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Temple and Wisconsin.

According to the April 1 edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll, a pair of teams in this weekend’s field are receiving votes. East Tennessee State collected 26 votes (good for 29th if the poll were extended), while Middle Tennessee garnered one vote (equivalent to 42nd).

Meanwhile, Monday’s updated ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show East Tennessee State is the top-rated team in this weekend’s tournament, checking in at No. 38. However, no less than seven teams are within striking distance of the Top 50 — Penn State (51st), Ohio State (54th), Kent State (56th), Northwestern (58th), Iowa (60th), Eastern Michigan (67th) and Middle Tennessee (68th). By comparison, Notre Dame currently is ranked 96th by Golfweek.

In addition, Wednesday’s updated Golfstat rankings have East Tennessee State rated 30th in the nation, while Penn State (43rd) and Kent State (49th) also are on the first page of the rankings. Five other schools are knocking on the door of the Top 50 — Northwestern (59th), Ohio State (60th), Iowa (62nd), Middle Tennessee (68th) and Minnesota (69th). The Irish come into Columbus rated 93rd by Golfstat.

So far this season, Notre Dame has faced half (six) of the other 12 teams it will see in this week’s Robert Kepler Intercollegiate, going a combined 1-11-1 against Eastern Michigan (0-1-1), Iowa (0-3), Minnesota (1-1), Northwestern (0-2), Ohio State (0-1) and Wisconsin (0-3). The Irish split with Minnesota came back in October, with the Gophers winning by 37 shots at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, and Notre Dame bouncing back to win by four strokes at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship. The Irish also finished even with Eastern Michigan at UNCG (both shot 890/+26), before the Eagles finished 28 shots clear of Notre Dame at the FAU Spring Break Championship two weeks ago. At that same FAU tourney, the Irish also lost to Iowa (eight shots), Northwestern (21 shots), Ohio State (19 shots) and Wisconsin (14 shots).

Notre Dame’s other two losses to Iowa came at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic (19 shots) and Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational (23 shots), while the other two Irish losses to Wisconsin came in the season-opening USF Olympic Club Intercollegiate (six shots) and the Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Invitational (nine shots). Notre Dame also ended up one stroke back of Northwestern in the Prestige at PGA WEST.

The Course
The Robert Kepler Intercollegiate will be played on the Scarlet Course (par 71/7,455 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.

Most recently, it was the site of the 2008 NCAA Central Regional, with current Irish senior co-captain Josh Sandman (out this season following back surgery) competing there as an individual qualifier. Sandman tied for 65th place at 16-over par 229 for the regional, which was played under extreme weather conditions (including fierce winds during the final round).

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 30 times, including 22 out of 23 years from 1969-92. More recently, Notre Dame will be making its seventh appearance at the event in the past dozen seasons, including a 2007 visit when the Irish finished 11th in the rain-shortened tournament at 628 (+60).

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. Among the players in this weekend’s lineup, junior Doug Fortner is the only golfer to have competed on the OSU Scarlet Course before, tying for 78th place (166/+24) at the 2007 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate.

Last Time Out: FAU Spring Break Championship
After being poised to make a run into the upper half of the standings as the FAU Spring Break Championship wound down, Notre Dame stumbled over the final few holes, finishing in 10th place at 40-over par 892 (294-296-302) as the tournament concluded on March 29 at the Gleneagles Country Club/Legends Course (par 71/6,722 yards) in Delray Beach, Fla. As a team, the Irish were just five-over par through 14 holes in the third round, but they played their final four holes in 13-over par, dropping them two spots down the ladder from their position during most of the tournament (including the end of the first two days of action).

Freshman Tom Usher carded a career-low eight-over par 221 (73-73-75) and led the Irish with a tie for 27th place in his spring debut. Playing in his fourth collegiate tournament, and only his second as a member of Notre Dame’s starting lineup, Usher showed the poise of a veteran and was at +1 for much of his final round before a double bogey on No. 15 and a bogey on the 18th hole marred his scorecard. Still, his final score was one stroke better than his previous best, which he had set while competing as an individual participant at the John Dallio Memorial on Sept. 21-22.

Junior Doug Fortner wound up tied for 33rd place at nine-over 222 (74-71-77), a solid finish for the all-BIG EAST selection, who was headed for an even better placement before bogeying his final four holes in the third round.

The other three Irish golfers in the lineup were separated by only three shots. Freshman Max Scodro tied for 52nd place at 12-over 225 (73-78-74), while junior Carl Santos-Ocampo was one shot back of his rookie teammate in a 56th-place tie at 13-over 226 (75-75-76). Santos-Ocampo was enjoying the best round of any Notre Dame player through 16 holes in the final round at even-par, but a bogey on the 17th hole, followed by a quadruple bogey on the last left him in the black.

Sophomore Dustin Zhang completed the Irish scoring in a tie for 63rd place at 15-over par 228 (74-77-77).

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 46-74-1 (.384) 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 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.

Next Up: BIG EAST Championship (April 19-21)
Notre Dame tees off in the BIG EAST Conference Championship April 19-21 at the Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club (South Course) in Dade City, Fla. The Irish have won six conference titles in their first 13 trips to the BIG EAST tournament, most recently in 2006 on this very same Lake Jovita course where they rallied from 12 strokes back in the final round to defeat Louisville on the first hole of a sudden death playoff. Notre Dame also set new school records for a single round (272/-16) and a tournament (842/-22) at the ’06 BIG EAST Championship. The Irish are 4-2 against other BIG EAST teams this year, including a 4-0 mark during the current spring season.

— ND —