Feb. 28, 2008
USC Collegiate Invitational
Monday-Tuesday, March 3-4, 2008
7:30 a.m. (PT) both days
North Ranch Country Club
Westlake Village, Calif.
Par 72/6,881 yards (unofficial)
Irish Head West For Spring Break Tourney In Los Angeles
Anxious to move beyond a rough outing in its spring opener, Notre Dame gets back in the swing March 3-4 when it tees off in the USC Collegiate Invitational, to be held at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, Calif. The Irish will be playing in the 30-year-old tournament for the first time since 2004, but are no strangers to playing in California, with this marking the sixth consecutive year Notre Dame has played at least once in the Golden State.
The Irish own a 293.94 stroke average that ranks among the best in school history, with their biggest contributions coming from their underclassmen. Sophomore Doug Fortner (73.13) and junior Josh Sandman (74.13) both have three top-20 finishes to their credit this year, while freshman Tyler Hock (74.15) also has made solid contributions during his rookie campaign, including a tie for 11th place at the Coca-Cola Duke Golf Classic back in October.
Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“This event at North Ranch is an exciting one for us. It’s a chance to get back in the saddle and get our spring season rolling. While it was tough to come up empty at Sawgrass, we did get better each round and actually moved up in Golfstat’s NCAA rankings, which is very important come NCAA selection time. Our underclassmen, Doug (Fortner), Tyler (Hock) and Connor (Alan-Lee), did a nice job there considering we’re not yet playing at home. They gained valuable experience and posted some solid rounds.
“We’ll face another good test in Los Angeles, with several ranked teams in the field. Having a tournament — just some golf — under our belts is important. Given where we are in the season, I would like to see us contend within the top half of this field, with an eye on earning a top-five finish.”
Dates and Times
Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Monday, beginning at 7:30 a.m. PT (10:30 a.m. ET in South Bend) with a shotgun start and going continuously through the day. The final round will be played Tuesday, beginning at 7:30 a.m. PT, with a split-tee start from the first and 10th holes (tee times to be based upon 36-hole standings).
Following The Irish
Live scoring for the USC Collegiate 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 USC Collegiate 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 14 five-man teams (70 participants, plus a handful of additional golfers competing on an individual basis, including Notre Dame sophomore Kyle Willis) will be taking part in the USC Collegiate 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.
Besides Notre Dame and tournament host USC, the remaining teams in the 14-team field for the USC Collegiate Invitational are: BYU, California, Fresno State, Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Pepperdine, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA (B Team) and Washington.
According to the Feb. 21 edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll, three ranked teams (No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 USC and No. 11 Tennessee) will be competing in this week’s tournament. Two other participating teams are garnering votes in the latest coaches poll — Pepperdine (41 points; 27th place) and Oregon State (nine points; tie-38th place).
Meanwhile, the Feb. 24 ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that six of the top 50 teams will be on hand for the USC Collegiate Invitational. Leading the way is No. 7 USC, No. 8 Stanford and No. 9 Tennessee. Next up are 28th-ranked Pepperdine and No. 40 Oregon State, with Oregon (47th) also appearing on the first page of the rankings.
In addition, the Feb. 27 Golfstat rankings indicate six of this week’s participants are appearing in that service’s Top 50. No. 7 Stanford sets the bar, with No. 8 USC and No. 10 Tennessee also on the top half of the leaderboard. Three other squads — No. 33 Pepperdine, No. 36 Oregon State and No. 45 Oregon — aren’t far off the pace.
With the vast majority of this week’s field coming from the West Coast, it’s no surprise that Notre Dame has not faced much of its opposition in the USC Collegiate Invitational In fact, the Irish have only seen Pepperdine (0-1) before, and that came in their first spring tournament (John Hayt Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 17-19 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla). In that same event, Notre Dame competed against UCLA’s varsity (Blue) squad. For the season, the Irish are 34-41-4 (.456) against Division I varsity opponents, with a 5-29-2 (.167) record against Top 50 clubs (1-19-1 vs. the Top 25).
The North Ranch Country Club is located in Westlake Village, Calif., nestled in the hills northwest of Los Angeles. Anchored by a spacious 50,000-square foot main clubhouse, the club’s championship golf course was designed by Ted Robinson and created in 1976, and is renowned for its immaculate condition and challenging holes. Situated in the midst of countless oak trees are three uniquely separate nines; The Valley Course, with its challenging seventh hole, The Oaks’ world class fourth hole, and the breathtaking panoramas of The Lakes with beautiful second and eighth holes.
As of press time, tournament organizers were still determining the exact 18-hole layout, as well as the par and yardage for this week’s USC Collegiate Invitational.
Noting The USC Collegiate Invitational
- This week will mark the 30th anniversary of the USC Collegiate Invitational, which began in 1978 as the Southwestern Collegiate.
- Notre Dame is participating in USC’s spring tournament for the first time since 2004, when the Irish finished 17th at the then-named Cleveland Golf Collegiate Classic (918, +66). Scott Gustafson was the top Notre Dame finisher at the event, tying for 14th place at three-over par 216.
- Two of the five Irish golfers in the lineup this week are California natives. Sophomore Doug Fortner hails from Tustin and is a 2006 graduate of Foothill High School, where he was a four-time first-team all-SeaView League selection and four-time individual qualifier for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Championship. Meanwhile, freshman Connor Alan-Lee is a resident of Solana Beach, Calif., and graduated last spring from La Jolla Country Day School.
- Notre Dame will be led this week by assistant coach Steve Colnitis, while head coach Jim Kubinski travels with the Irish “B” team to the Charleston Southern Spring Invitational (March 3-4 at the Coosaw Creek Country Club in Charleston, S.C.).
Last Time Out: John Hayt Collegiate Invitational
Junior Josh Sandman and sophomore Doug Fortner shared team-high scoring honors with a tie for 29th place at 224 (+8), as Notre Dame closed out play at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 19 at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The Irish finished the tournament in 15th place at 39-over par 903 (306-301-296), 30 strokes behind repeat champion Alabama.
Sandman (73-76-75) and Fortner (74-73-77) wound up 15 shots behind tournament medalist Joel Sjoholm of Georgia State, who led wire-to-wire. The John Hayt Collegiate Invitational is considered one of the nation’s top college tournaments, with 10 of the top 50 teams (according to Golfweek), including four of the top 10 squads, were in attendance.
Playing as an individual participant, native Floridian and Irish sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo tied for 38th place at 10-over par 226 (76-76-74). Freshman Tyler Hock also wrapped up his homecoming on a high note with the best score of the tournament by an Irish golfer, shooting a final-round 70 (-2) and finishing tied for 65th place at 16-over par 232 (88-74-70).
Classmate Connor Alan-Lee was three shots further back in a 69th-place tie at 19-over par 235 (78-78-79). Senior tri-captain Greg Rodgers closed out the Irish lineup in a 78th-place tie at 25-over par 241 (81-86-74).
Notre Dame has gotten a significant boost from its underclassmen, with its two lowest scorers (and four of the top five) being either freshmen or sophomores. Sophomore Doug Fortner is setting the pace for the Irish so far this season with a 73.13 average and three top-20 finishes, followed by freshman Jeff Chen, who has seen action in one “B” event and once as an individual, amassing a 73.33 average. Rookie Tyler Hock has a 74.15 stroke rate that is good for fourth on the squad, while sophomore Kyle Willis rounds out the five best stroke averages for Notre Dame with a 74.20 mark.
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 34-41-4 (.456) 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: Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational (March 14-16)
Notre Dame will be back on the links March 14-16 when the Irish make their inaugural appearance in the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, hosted by Georgia Southern at the Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga. Some of the more notable teams scheduled to compete in the tournament include: No. 9 Tennessee, No. 12 Auburn and No. 21 South Carolina.
— ND —