Junior tri-captain Cole Isban, who was named to the PING All-Midwest Region Team for the second consecutive year, will compete for a berth in the 2006 U.S. Open at a sectional qualifier Monday in St. Charles, Ill.

Irish Head To South Texas For Border Olympics

March 16, 2006

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Border Olympics
Friday-Saturday, March 17-18, 2006
8 a.m. (ET) both days
Laredo Country Club
Laredo, Texas
Par 72/7,241 yards

It’s a quick turnaround for Notre Dame, as the Irish play their second tournament in less than a week Friday and Saturday at the Border Olympics in Laredo, Texas. It’s the back half of a daunting Spring Break trip for Notre Dame, which tied for 11th at the General Jim Hackler Invitational last weekend in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

The Irish continue to enjoy one of their most successful seasons ever in 2005-06, currently posting a 293.22 stroke average with five top-six finishes and three wins over nationally-ranked opponents. The Irish also are receiving five votes in the latest GCAA/Bridgestone Top 25 poll (tied for 44th if the poll were extended), and are 48th in the Golfstat rankings. Notre Dame also has each of its tri-captains ranked among the top 100 according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, led by senior Mark Baldwin, who is ranked at No. 53 and holds a team-best 72.50 stroke average. Junior Cole Isban is 62nd in the nation with a 73.00 stroke average, while senior Scott Gustafson is ranked 95th with a 72.61 stroke average.

Quoting Coach Kubinski …
“We’ve added Eric Deutsch to the lineup, since he has prior experience in Laredo from his freshman year. Eric, Mark (Baldwin) and Scott (Gustafson) have played Laredo Country Club, and from what I’ve heard, we’ll need to make some birdies. The familiarity with Laredo amongst our seniors will be beneficial. “I like the fact that we’ll be playing on consecutive weekends. We’ll see this again from Augusta to Purdue and, hopefully, from The Maxwell to NCAA regionals. There are only two scenarios that come out of this and both are positive. Either you play well the first event and want to keep your momentum going, or you don’t play as well and want to get right back after it. There’s not much use in time off between events unless you’re looking to make major changes. We feel our top players are very talented and that we just need a consistent fourth score. “This event is yet another example of our program mixing it up with teams from across the nation. We’ve faced fields from all the major golf conferences this season – the ACC, SEC, Pac 10, Big 10, Big 12, etc. – and this one adds to that fact. There’ll be several Big 12 and Conference USA teams competing. I think it’s a great benefit to our players. I love to say that Notre Dame plays everyone. We’re not regionalized. We want to play everyone, everywhere. It goes with the old saying: ‘If you want to be the best, you must play the best.’ We’re doing that.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Friday, with the opening round teeing off via a shotgun start at 8 a.m. (ET). The second round will begin immediately following the conclusion of round one. Competitors will then return to the course Saturday at 8 a.m. (ET) for the final round, once again using a shotgun start.

Tournament Results
There will be no live scoring for this weekend’s Border Olympics. However, complete results following each day’s action will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com). In addition, the latest information on the Irish is available on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000). Callers should select option #9, then press #2 for the latest information on the tournament, as well as weather or scheduling delays.

The Tournament Format
A total of 16 five-man teams (80 participants, with the possibility of some teams fielding additional golfers on an individual basis) will be participating in the Border Olympics. 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.

The Teams
Aside from Notre Dame, the rest of the 16-team field for the Border Olympics includes:

Arkansas-Little Rock, Baylor, Houston, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, New Mexico State, North Texas, Rice, South Alabama, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas-Arlington, Texas-El Paso (UTEP), Texas State and Washington State.

According to the latest GCAA/Bridgestone Top 25 poll (released Thursday), No. 11 Baylor is the only ranked team scheduled to compete in this weekend’s event. However, besides Notre Dame (five votes, tied for 44th if the poll were extended), two other squads are receiving votes in the current coaches’ survey – Houston (27 votes, 32nd) and Lamar (21 votes, tie-33rd).

Meanwhile, the latest ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of March 12) have been compiled and four of the top 50 teams will be playing in Laredo. Up front is No. 11 Baylor, followed by No. 34 Lamar and 40th-ranked Houston. Notre Dame is just inside the top 50, currently checking in 50th.

In addition, the latest Golfstat rankings of the 2005-06 season were released March 14 and there are four of this weekend’s participants appearing in that service’s Top 50. Baylor tops the field at No. 10, with No. 40 Lamar, No. 41 Houston and No. 48 Notre Dame also in the running.

The Course
This week’s Border Olympics will be played at the Laredo Country Club (par 72/7,241 yards) in Laredo, Texas. A fairly new course built in 1983 and designed by Joe Finger, the Laredo Country Club is considered one of the top layouts in the state of Texas. It also boasts a wide variety of challenges, ranging from long tree-lined fairways, to numerous water hazards (affecting at least eight holes) and bunkers. In addition, the greens are severely undulating and deceptively quick, putting a premium on a strong short game.

A History Lesson
This will be the 55th edition of the Border Olympics, which is the second-oldest collegiate golf tournament in the nation. The event made its debut in 1952 and the impressive list of past champions includes Ben Crenshaw (1971-73), Tom Kite (1970), Craig Perks (1990) and Kermit Zarley (1963). The tournament originally was played at the Casa Blanca Country Club (1952-84) before moving to its present locale at the Laredo Country Club. Baylor won its fifth tourney title in eight years last season, rolling to a 22-shot victory over Lamar.

Tourney Rewind: ’03 Border Olympics
Notre Dame will be making its second appearance at the Border Olympics, having also competed in Laredo during the 2002-03 season. The Irish finished 14th in the 20-team event that weekend, carding a 21-over par 885 (302-297-286) to place 26 strokes behind tournament champion Texas A&M.

Three members of the current Irish roster – seniors Mark Baldwin, Eric Deutsch and Scott Gustafson – traveled to Laredo as college rookies that season, with Deutsch posting a team-best 28th-place tie at three-over par 219 (69-76-74). Meanwhile, Baldwin tied for 38th (79-70-71=220) and Gustafson was tied for 50th place (76-76-70=222). All three players are slated to be part of Notre Dame’s travel squad this weekend.

Measuring Stick
A good indication of the progress Notre Dame has made in the short time Jim Kubinski has been head coach can be found in the team’s stroke average.

Currently at 293.22, it would shatter the old school record by more than five shots (298.29 in 1999-2000). In addition, the Irish presently have three players with stroke averages at 73.00 or lower – Mark Baldwin (72.50), Scott Gustafson (72.61) and Cole Isban (73.00). In the 77-year history of the Notre Dame program, the Irish have never had a trio score lower than 75.32 for an entire season (1999-2000 – Todd Vernon at 74.18, Steve Ratay at 74.54 and Alex Kent at 75.32).

One other item to watch is Notre Dame’s progress on a round-by-round basis in each tournament. This season, the Irish are averaging a 296 in their opening round before trimming that score to 292.50 in round two. Notre Dame has closed strong as well, firing a 291.17 on average this season.

Last Tournament – General Jim Hackler Invitational Notre Dame shot a final-round 303 and finished in a tie for 11th place at the General Jim Hackler Invitational, which concluded Monday at the TPC of Myrtle Beach (par 72/6,950 yards) in Murrells Inlet, S.C. The Irish carded a team score of 32-over par 896 (296-297-303), tying UNC Wilmington for the 11th position and putting Notre Dame 29 strokes behind tournament champion East Tennessee State.

Senior tri-captain Scott Gustafson fired a one-under par 215 (70-70-75) to tie for fifth place in the 81-man field, marking the fourth time in seven events this season the Notre Dame veteran has finished in the top 10 (and second in the top-five). Fellow senior tri-captain Mark Baldwin had the best final round for the Irish, carding a two-under 70 and winding up tied for 27th place overall at eight-over par 224 (75-79-70).

Sophomore Mike King owned a share of 46th place in the final individual standings at 12-over par 228 (76-73-79), while junior tri-captain Cole Isban ended up a shot behind King in a 52nd-place tie at 13-over par 229 (75-75-79). Sophomore Greg Rodgers completed the scoring for the Notre Dame contingent, registering a 77th-place finish at 24-over par 240 (76-83-81).

Thumbnails On The Irish Lineup
Cole Isban (73.00 stroke average; third on team) – Ranked No. 62 in nation by Golfweek … posted career bests with first-place tie and 210 (-6) score at Shoal Creek Intercollegiate … has recorded eight of 18 rounds this year at par or better (seven under par), with four rounds in the 60s … owns two top-10 finishes this season (10 career) … has been exceptionally reliable, as 81 of his 88 collegiate rounds (.920) have counted towards the team score (third-best percentage by Irish golfer since 1990) … career 74.34 stroke average is tops in school history (second: 74.43 by Charles Thurn, 1956-58) … 2005 PING/All-Midwest Region selection (first Irish player to earn regional or national accolades since 1980) … two-time all-BIG EAST Conference honoree (2004, 2005) … has qualified for past two U.S. Amateur Championships.

Mark Baldwin (72.50; first on team) – Presently ranked 53rd in nation by Golfweek … has team-best 11 rounds of par or better this season (seven under par), with three rounds in the 60s … tied for 10th (219, +3) at season-opening Gopher Invitational … tied for sixth (career-low 210, -6) at Coca-Cola Duke Classic … matched career-low score (210, -6) and tied for fourth at Lexus Naples Intercollegiate … has ended up 20th or higher in 10 of past 14 events … has seen 37 of his last 40 rounds (.925) – and all 15 this season – counted towards the team score (not counting 2005 CordeValle after team DQ) … has seven career top-10 finishes (three this year), with six of those coming in little more than one year (Oct. 2004-present) … shot school and Warren Golf Course-record 63 (-7) in opening round of TCU dual match on April 9, 2005 … two-time all-BIG EAST (2003; 2005 – medalist).

Scott Gustafson (72.61; second on team) – 95th-ranked player in nation by Golfweek … has shot eight rounds at par or better (five below par with two in the 60s), tying for second on team … 17 of 18 rounds (.944) this year have counted to team score (not including CordeValle after team DQ) … led team with 218 (+2) at Gopher Invitational … tacked on eighth-place tie at Coca-Cola Duke Classic with 211 (-5) … tied for third at Prestige at PGA WEST (214, -2) … earned share of fifth place at General Jim Hackler Invitational (215, -1) for his ninth career top-10 finish and 14th team-leading finish (third in school history) … also played 100th collegiate round in final circuit at Gopher Invitational … second among Irish veterans with 75.1 career stroke average (ninth in school history) … 2003 all-BIG EAST selection. Mike King (76.20; fifth on team) – Posted best finish of season (and second-best as member of travel squad) with 29th-place tie at Lexus Naples Intercollegiate (224, +8) … tied for 45th at CordeValle Collegiate to end the fall, firing a career-low 68 (-4) in the opening round en route to a score of 223 (+7) … tied for 44th place at The Prestige at PGA WEST (226, +10), including opening-round 71 (-1) … had three top-10 finishes in nine starts as a rookie, including tie for ninth at the BIG EAST Championship. Eric Deutsch (76.33; sixth on team) – Veteran makes spring debut after starting first four tournaments during the fall … best performance of the fall came at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate, where he tied for 32nd place at six-over par 222 (74-73-75) … two-time all-BIG EAST selection (2004, 2005) … has been Notre Dame’s top finisher at past two NCAA Central Regionals, including a 20th-place tie in 2005 (215, +5).

Next Up For The Irish
Notre Dame will get a brief respite after their long Spring Break trip before returning to the links April 1-2 for the Administaff Augusta State Invitational in Evans, Ga. The Irish had one of their better performances of the 2004-05 season at last year’s event, tying for seventh place while defeating five ranked teams and equalling a sixth en route to a team score of 61-over par 925 in windy conditions.