Josh Sandman finished tied for seventh at the Gopher invitational.

Irish Look For More Magic At BIG EAST Championship

April 19, 2008

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BIG EAST Championship
Sunday-Tuesday, April 20-22, 2008
8 a.m. (ET) each day
Traditions Golf Club – Hebron, Ky.
Par 72/7,103 yards

Irish Look For More Magic At BIG EAST Championship
Eight months of preparation have led up to this weekend, as Notre Dame heads to suburban Cincinnati for the 2008 BIG EAST Conference Championship, to be contested Sunday-Tuesday at the Traditions Golf Club (par 72/7,103 yards) in Hebron, Ky. The Irish rank second in league history with six titles, and have finished in the top three at the BIG EAST Championship 11 times in their first 12 years as a conference member. The winner of this week’s tournament also will receive the BIG EAST’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, which gets underway next month.

Entering the BIG EAST Championship, junior Josh Sandman (73.07 stroke average) is in the midst of a hot streak that hasn’t been seen in the Notre Dame golf program in nearly three decades. The Greensboro, N.C., native (and 2007 all-BIG EAST honoree) has posted four consecutive top-10 finishes and has a sharp 71.55 stroke average during that span.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“We’re excited to be entering the championship portion of our season. We’ve played extremely well the last few years at the BIG EAST Championship and I feel we’re rounding into form for this year’s event.

“Of course, our final rounds the last two years (26-under par combined) have shown how well we can play. We do need to get off to a better start on Sunday and Monday. Our players are looking forward to that challenge. We started slowly in February and through much of March, but we’ve had a number of great rounds at par or below of late, which has given us quite a boost in confidence.

“Josh (Sandman) will lead us into battle this weekend, as he has throughout the spring season. His maturation both in the physical sense and through his mental approach — managing his emotions — has been both exciting and rewarding to witness. He can play with anyone right now.

“Both Doug (Fortner) and Dustin (Zhang) are very talented young players and ready to compete. They’re striking it well and have excellent short games. If we can get them going, expect some very good scores.

“Of course, senior leadership can be a factor in the championship setting. I have great respect for the group of seniors from Louisville. We’ve had very competitive battles with them the last couple of years. Eddie (Peckels) and Greg (Rodgers) are well aware of their responsibilities this weekend and are more than eager to get us going. As we’ve had the last couple of years (at the BIG EAST tournament), I think you’ll see some quality rounds from our seniors this weekend.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play single rounds (18 holes) each day, using a split-tee start for the first two days. Notre Dame will be paired with Georgetown and Villanova for the first two rounds, with those groups slated to tee off Sunday from No. 10 beginning at 8:50 a.m. (ET) and continuing at 10-minute intervals. For Monday’s second round, the Irish will start from the first tee at 8 a.m. (ET).

Pairings and tee times for the final round on Tuesday will be based upon the 36-hole standings, with the top six teams teeing off on the front side of the course and remaining six squads starting on the back nine. The higher-placed teams on each side of the course (Teams 1-3 and 7-9) will have the later tee times (beginning at 8:50 a.m. ET), while the lower-placed squads (Teams 4-6 and 10-12) will start at 8 a.m. (ET). All times and formats are tentative and subject to change at the discretion of the tournament committee.

Following The Irish
Live in-progress scoring from the BIG EAST Championship will be available through the Golfstat web site. In addition, complete results following each day’s action will be posted on the 2008 BIG EAST Championship web site and the official Notre Dame athletics web site ( 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 BIG EAST Championship through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information or to sign up, visit the men’s golf page at

The Tournament Format
A total of 12 five-man teams (60 participants) will be taking part in the BIG EAST Championship. 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 winning team will not only take home the BIG EAST Championship trophy, but also will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, which begins May 15-17 with regional play at three sites around the country.

The Teams
Besides Notre Dame and tournament host Cincinnati, the remaining schools in the 12-team field for the BIG EAST Championship are: Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall, South Florida and Villanova.

According to the latest edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf poll (released April 2 by the Golf Coaches Association of America), Louisville is ranked 25th in the nation. The Cardinals are the only team in this week’s BIG EAST Championship field to appear in the coaches’ poll.

The current ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of April 13) show that the highest ranked teams in the field will be Louisville (21st) and Notre Dame (72nd), with Marquette (77th) and St. John’s (88th) also appearing in that service’s Top 100.

Meanwhile, the newest Golfstat rankings (as of April 16) show that four Top 100 clubs will be competing at this week’s BIG EAST Championship. Louisville leads the way at No. 28, followed by Marquette (70th), Notre Dame (76th) and St. John’s (80th).

Notre Dame has only faced Louisville and Georgetown previously this season, going 0-2 against the Cardinals (five shots back at rain-shortened Mason Rudolph Intercollegiate and 18 shots back at UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship) and 1-0 against the Hoyas (16 shots ahead at Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic).

The Notre Dame “B” team also finished second at the season-opening Rutgers Invitational (870, +18) back on Sept. 14-15, defeating varsity squads from Villanova (tie-6th, 895), Seton Hall (tie-6th, 895) and Rutgers (10th, 904). The Irish second unit also placed fifth (896, +44) at the Charleston Southern Spring Kickoff on March 3-4, besting the Connecticut varsity five (6th, 914).

For the season, Notre Dame is 51-72-6 (.419) against Division I varsity opponents, with a 8-51-3 (.153) record against Golfweek Top 50 clubs (2-26-2 vs. the Top 25).

The Individuals
Four of the nation’s top 65 golfers (according to Golfstat) will lead the pack contending for medalist honors at the 2008 BIG EAST Championship. Marquette’s Mike Van Sickle is the top-rated player in the field at No. 30, followed by Keegan Bradley of St. John’s (37th). Louisville’s Derek Fathauer (46th) and Josh Sandman of Notre Dame (63rd) also will look to battle for the BIG EAST individual title this week. Fathauer’s twin brother, Daryl, is the reigning conference medalist, carding a winning score of 209 (-7) last year.

The Course
A par-72, 7,103-yard layout tucked away in the rolling hills of northern Kentucky, Traditions Golf Club is a haven for golf enthusiasts. Founded in 1991, the 18-hole championship golf course has been ranked by Golf Digest as the third-best course in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and by Turf Magazine as the second-best course.

The scenic views and links-style design are reminiscent of Notre Dame’s own Warren Golf Course. With a blend of lush forgiving bent grass fairways, a demanding rough and the toughest greens in the Tri-State area, Traditions offers a magnificent challenge to players of all handicaps.

Notre Dame At The BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame has participated in each of the past 12 BIG EAST Championships and finished among the top three 11 times since joining the conference prior to the 1995-96 academic year. To date, the Irish have won six titles (1995, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2006), which puts them second in league history behind the nine crowns won by St. John’s from 1979-89. George Thomas served as the head coach for Notre Dame’s first three BIG EAST victories, while John Jasinski guided the Irish to the 2004 title and current head coach Jim Kubinski has been the helm when Notre Dame won the ’05 and ’06 events.

In addition to their six championships, the Irish have finished as tournament runner-up four times (1998 – tie with St. John’s, 2002, 2003, 2007) and took third-place honors in 2000.

Notre Dame golfers also have won medalist honors four times, tying Virginia Tech for the third-highest total in conference history behind St. John’s (seven) and Providence (six). The most recent Irish individual champion was crowned in 2005 when Mark Baldwin won the weather-shortened BIG EAST Championship with a five-over par 75. Other Notre Dame golfers who were medalists at the conference tournament include: Bill Moore (1995), Todd Vernon (1997) and Steve Ratay (2001 – three-way tie with Brian Krusoe of Virginia Tech and Andrew Svoboda of St. John’s).

Potent Notables On The Irish At The BIG EAST Championship

  • Notre Dame joins St. John’s as the only schools in the 27-year history of the BIG EAST Championship to win three consecutive titles on more than one occasion. The Irish recorded their first hat trick from 1995-97 and matched that feat from 2004-06 before Louisville took the title last year. St. John’s actually posted a pair of “four-peats” from 1981-84 and 1986-89, becoming the only school ever to win four consecutive BIG EAST titles.
  • Notre Dame’s 32-stroke win in 1997 is the second-largest margin of victory in BIG EAST Championship history. St. John’s finished 34 shots ahead of the field to win the 1988 conference title.
  • Conversely, the Irish also won the first sudden death playoff in BIG EAST Championship history in 2006, defeating Louisville on the first extra hole with an aggregate score of one-under par (birdie, par, par, par), compared to one-over par for the Cardinals (par, par, par, bogey). The 1989 conference title was decided by a scorecard playoff (second-round score of fifth golfer), a tiebreak no longer employed by the BIG EAST.
  • Junior Josh Sandman is the lone Notre Dame player in this week’s lineup that has earned all-conference honors, taking the award last year by finishing in 10th place (215, -1). Senior tri-captain Greg Rodgers just missed the all-BIG EAST cutoff (top 10 finishers) last year, tying for 11th place at 217 (+1) in his conference tournament debut.
  • Sandman, Rodgers and sophomore Doug Fortner (tie-24th, 224) all competed for the Irish in last year’s BIG EAST Championship, where Notre Dame finished second at eight-under par 856, the fourth-lowest score in school history, and shot a final-round 278 (-10) that ranks as the third-lowest mark in the Irish record books. Senior tri-captain Eddie Peckels will be participating in his first BIG EAST tournament this week.
  • For the seventh consecutive year, Notre Dame will start a freshman at the BIG EAST Championship when rookie Dustin Zhang steps to the No. 10 tee on Sunday morning. In three of the previous six years, an Irish freshman has gone on to earn all-conference recognition (Ryan Marshall in 2002; Tommy Balderston, Mark Baldwin and Scott Gustafson in 2003; and Cole Isban in 2004).
  • Notre Dame has a share of two BIG EAST Championship records. The Irish shot a tournament-record 842 (-22) in 2006, tying Louisville through the regulation 54 holes before winning in sudden death. That same year, Mark Baldwin fired a final-round 66 (-6), and is one of five golfers tied for the lowest 18-hole score in conference tournament history.
  • The third round of the BIG EAST Championship has been particularly good to the Irish the past two years. In fact, Notre Dame is a combined 26-under par on the final day at the BIG EAST tourney in the last two seasons, shooting a school-record 272 (-16) in 2006 and a 278 (-10) last year.
  • Although it’s just eight years old, the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame already has played host to five BIG EAST Championships, second only to the TPC at Avenel (Potomac, Md.), which was the site of 11 conference tournaments, including 10 in a row from 1987-96. However, Notre Dame will not host the conference tournament until at least the 2009-10 season, with next year’s event headed back to the site of the 2006 tournament, Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City, Fla. (to be hosted by USF).

Tourney Rewind: 2007 BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame saved its best for last, firing the low round of the tournament with a 10-under par 278 on the final day and powering to a second-place finish at the 2007 BIG EAST Conference Championship, which took place at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Ky. (located outside Louisville). The Irish posted the third-lowest single-round score in school history and fourth-lowest tournament total in program annals, finishing at eight-under par 856 (291-287-278). Tournament host Louisville, which held a 16-stroke lead entering the final round, won the team title at 844 (-20).

Notre Dame now has finished in the top three at the BIG EAST Championship 11 times in its 12-year conference affiliation. It’s also the fourth runner-up placement for the Irish, to go along with six league titles.

Notre Dame had three players named to the all-BIG EAST Conference Team, thanks to their top-10 finishes at the tournament. Adam Gifford and Cole Isban tied for fifth place with matching scores of three-under par 213. A first-time all-conference designee, Gifford shot rounds of 69, 72 and 72 and tied his best finish and 54-hole score of his career (213 in a fifth-place outing in the 2007 Triumph at Pauma Valley). He also turned in perhaps the shot of the day, holing a tough chip shot from well off the green on No. 9 for an eagle-3.

Meanwhile, Isban erased all remnants of a tough first round with scores of 76, 68 and 69 to card his third top-five finish of the year and ninth of his career. He also picked up his third all-conference plaque, joining Mark Baldwin as the only three-time all-BIG EAST selections in program history.

Josh Sandman was chosen as an all-league honoree for the first time in his career, placing 10th at this year’s tournament with a score of one-under par 215 (73-74-68). It was Sandman’s second top-10 outing of the year and third of his career.

Greg Rodgers completed one of his finest showings at Notre Dame, rising up to tie for 11th place at one-over par 217 (75-73-69). The final-round 69 tied his career-low score, previously set at the 2004 Windon Memorial Classic, and his 54-hole total of 217 was one shot back of his career best (216 at the 2004 Nelson Invitational, played on a par-69 course at Stanford).

Doug Fortner capped his first trip to the BIG EAST Championship with a tie for 24th place at eight-over par 224 (74-75-75). That score matches Fortner’s second-lowest mark of his rookie year, exceeded only by a 212 (-1) in the Triumph at Pauma Valley.

Last Time Out: Irish Invitational
Senior tri-captain Eddie Peckels collected a piece of his first career individual title, and junior Josh Sandman continued his recent hot streak with a fourth consecutive top-10 finish, leading the Notre Dame men’s golf team to a runner-up finish at the Irish Invitational, which took place April 5 at the Warren Golf Course (par 70/6,930 yards) on the Notre Dame campus. The Irish carded a two-round total of 10-over par 570 (282-288) to wind up two strokes back of tournament champion Northwestern in the nine-team field.

Playing as an individual participant, Peckels picked the perfect time for the best round of his career, firing a 68 (-2) in the afternoon session to finish at one-under par 139 (71-68) for the tournament and share medalist honors with Northwestern’s David Lipsky. Peckels’ previous best round was a 69 that he carded twice before (most recently in the second round at the 2006 CordeValle Collegiate). His best tournament finish prior to the Irish Invitational came at the 2004 Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational, when he tied for seventh place.

Meanwhile, Sandman tied for fourth place at the Irish Invitational with a one-over par 141 (68-73), marking the second time during his four-tourney run that he has placed in the top five at an event. Sandman also becomes the first Notre Dame golfer to put together four consecutive top-10 finishes since the 1979-80 season, when John Lundgren turned the trick in the Indianapolis Intercollegiate (tie-6th), Ohio State Invitational (9th), Purdue Invitational (tie-3rd) and Mid-American Invitational (5th).

Freshman Dustin Zhang tied Sandman for fourth place at one-over par 141 (71-70), posting the best score and finish of his young career. Classmate Tyler Hock, who also played as an individual, tied for seventh place at two-over par 142 (70-72), also earning his best career finish. Sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo and freshman Connor Alan-Lee rounded out a pack of six Irish golfers in the top 10, tying for 10th place at three-over par 143. Santos-Ocampo shot a career-low 68 in the opening round before slipping to a 75 in the afternoon, while Alan-Lee carded rounds of 69 (also a career-best) and 74 on the day.

Three more Notre Dame golfers tied for 20th place at six-over par 146. Sophomore Doug Fortner fired rounds of 75 and 71, while senior tri-captain Greg Rodgers shot matching scores of 73, and freshman Jeff Chen posted a 72 and 74. Rodgers and Chen were playing as individual participants at the tournament.

Sophomore Olavo Batista was another individual competitor, tying for 31st place at nine-over par 149 (75-74), while senior tri-captain Mike King tied for 35th place at 11-over par 151 (77-74). Sophomore Kyle Willis, who also played individually, ended up in a 39th-place tie at 12-over par 152 (80-72).

Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame has made 33 NCAA postseason appearances in its history (most recently in 2006 with a trip to the NCAA East Regional), while winning the 1944 national championship 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 15 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 15 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 notable instructors as Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Rick Smith.

Next Up: NCAA Regionals (May 15-17)
The winner of this week’s BIG EAST Championship will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Championship, which begins May 15-17 with regional play at three sites (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Columbus, Ohio; and Bremerton, Wash.). The complete 81-team regional field (27 schools at each site) will be announced by the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee on May 5.

— ND —