April 21, 2005
After using a dramatic back-nine comeback to win last year’s BIG EAST Conference title, Notre Dame will be out to ensure the conference trophy stays in South Bend when it plays host to the 2005 BIG EAST Championship Saturday and Sunday at the Warren Golf Course. The Irish have won four league titles since joining the BIG EAST a decade ago, and a fifth crown would give Notre Dame an automatic berth into the NCAA Central Regional, which will take place May 19-22, also at the Warren Golf Course.
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Jim Kubinski, the Irish have had a successful spring season, going 41-23-2 (.636) with three top-five finishes, including the championship at the NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational back in March.
Quoting Coach Kubinski
“We’ve played too well this spring to let a bad weekend in Texas take away from our momentum or detract from our improving confidence. You don’t beat ACC champion Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson or Southern California by accident. You beat good teams by playing well. Our guys are talented and have put the work in. My main goal for us this weekend is to get off to a good start. The reasoning is two-fold. First, as the top seed, we don’t want the other teams to gain confidence. We need to make a statement from the outset. Second, with a forecast calling for inclement weather, building a lead is critical in the event the championship is reduced from 54 holes.
“Let’s get off to a good start and stay patient, as the elements and a great golf course will test us. If we can follow that recipe, we should contend for the championship come Sunday afternoon.”
Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, with the opening round heading off at 8 a.m. (EST – the equivalent of Central time) from the first tee. Notre Dame’s first golfer (freshman Mike King) will start at 8:50 a.m. (EST), with the remaining Irish players going off at 10-minute intervals afterward. The second round will start in a similar format at 1 p.m. (EST), with King set to open Notre Dame’s afternoon session at 1:50 p.m. (EST). In the first two rounds, the top-seeded Irish are paired with No. 2 seed Rutgers and third seed Georgetown.
Competitors will then return Sunday morning for the final round, which also will begin at 8 a.m. (EST) from the first tee with groups from the fourth-sixth place teams from the first two rounds. The top three teams in the standings will start at 8:50 a.m. (EST), also from the No. 1 tee.
Live scoring will be available for this tournament, courtesy of Golfstat (www.golfstat.com). Complete results following each day’s action also 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 six five-man teams (30 participants) will be participating in the BIG EAST Conference Championship. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four scores in the five-man lineup in each round counting toward the team total.
Notre Dame is the top seed in this weekend’s six-team BIG EAST Conference Championship. The Irish are joined by (in order of seeding): Rutgers, Georgetown, St. John’s, Boston College and Villanova. In the current Golfstat rankings (as of April 19), Notre Dame is ranked 52nd in the nation. Rutgers is next at No. 117, followed by Georgetown (No. 183), Boston College (No. 203), St. John’s (No. 214) and Villanova (No. 223).
This season, Notre Dame has not faced any of the other five teams in this year’s BIG EAST Championship.
For the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in the past six seasons, Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course is playing host to the BIG EAST Conference Championship. A par-70, 7,011-yard layout designed by PGA Tour veteran Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, the Warren Golf Course is based on a traditional walkable Irish and American courses favored around the turn of the 20th century. The course winds its way through 250 wooded acres and is based on subtleties rather than special effects, including small, undulating greens and several strategically-placed bunkers (many of which were recently renovated as part of a course-wide improvement project).
The Warren Golf Course also will play host to the NCAA Central Regional next month, in addition to U.S. Amateur and Western Amateur qualifiers this summer.
Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, Notre Dame has participated in the conference tournament every year, making its 10th appearance in 2005. In that time, the Irish have won four titles (1995, 1996, 1997, 2004) and have placed second on three occasions (1998, 2002, 2003). Only St. John’s has won more BIG EAST men’s golf titles than Notre Dame, taking home the hardware nine times.
The Irish also have had three medalists come out of the BIG EAST Championship. Bill Moore took top honors in 1995 (143) and Todd Vernon followed suit in 1997 (141). Steve Ratay is the most recent Notre Dame player to finish first, carding a 215 (+5) winding up in a three-way tie in 2001 with St. John’s Andrew Svoboda and Virginia Tech’s Brian Krusoe.
Thumbnails On The Irish Lineup
Cole Isban (74.94 spring; 74.19 overall) – Has started all 11 tournaments for the Irish this season â€¢ leads team in overall stroke average and spring average (among regulars) â€¢ overall stroke average is eighth-best single-season mark in school history â€¢ has four top-10 finishes this year, including three top-five showings â€¢ has not placed lower than 30th in any tournament this year â€¢ has had a team-best 90.6 percent of his rounds (29 of 32) count toward the team score â€¢ 2004 all-BIG EAST selection after tying for third at 218 (+8).
Mark Baldwin (75.00 spring; 75.12 overall) – Is second to Isban in overall and spring stroke average â€¢ has played in nine tournaments this year â€¢ has a pair of top-five finishes to his credit, including medalist honors at TCU dual match â€¢ shot school and Warren Golf Course-record 63 (-7) in opening round of TCU dual â€¢ has ended up 20th or higher in five of his last seven events (four times in spring season) â€¢ has had 90 percent of his rounds (18 of 20) count to the team total â€¢ has shaved nearly one-third of a stroke off his career average (down to 75.90) and is enjoying the best year of his three-year tenure â€¢ 2003 all-BIG EAST choice following his sixth-place finish at 224 (+14).
Scott Gustafson (77.07 spring; 77.04 overall) – Junior still not 100 percent following injuries suffered in fall automobile accident â€¢ 2003 all-BIG EAST pick after placing second with a score of 221 (+11) â€¢ is second among Irish veterans with 75.29 career stroke average â€¢ has five career top-10 finishes, including two this year (tied for eighth at TCU dual).
Eric Deutsch (78.64 spring; 76.69 overall) – has started eight events (three this spring) â€¢ has three top-10 finishes this year, including a sixth-place outing at the TCU dual â€¢ led all Notre Dame individuals at that match, carding a five-over par 145 â€¢ was 2004 all-BIG EAST selection after tying for fifth place at 219 (+9) last year.
Mike King (78.80 spring; 75.85 overall) – freshman has started seven tournaments this year, but makes his first appearance in the Irish lineup this spring â€¢ earned his way into the starting five with scores of 67, 71 and 72 in his last three rounds (team playoff) at the Warren Golf Course â€¢ has two top-10 finishes this season, most recently tying for eighth as an individual at the TCU dual match.
For the first time in recent memory, the Irish are receiving votes in the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA)/Bridgestone Coaches’ Poll (as of April 8). Notre Dame picked up three votes in the latest balloting, which would put it in a tie for 46th place with Stanford if the poll were extended.
One of the reasons for the Irish ascension into the poll was Notre Dame’s success at the Augusta State Invitational earlier this month. In that event, the Irish placed seventh and outshot five ranked teams, including then-No. 8 Wake Forest (by a staggering 29 strokes) and 10th-ranked Southern California.
A Record-Setting Mark
Junior Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H./New Hampton Prep) set a new school and Warren Golf Course record on April 9, carding a seven-under par 63 in the first round of a 36-hole dual match against No. 11 TCU. Baldwin broke the nearly 42-year-old Irish single-round mark of 64, set by Mike O’Connell on May 4, 1963, in a quadrangular match against Northwestern, Ball State and Bellarmine (Ky.) College at Notre Dame’s old Burke Memorial Golf Course.
Baldwin also topped the previous Warren Golf Course record of 66 (-4), established by Indiana’s Jeff Overton on Sept. 19, 2004 in the final round of the Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview. PGA and Champions Tour veteran Jerry Pate (the 1976 U.S. Open champion and PGA Tour Co-Player of the Year) actually shot an eight-under par 62 (30-32) at the par-70 Warren Golf Course on July 28, 2001. However, that round took place from the regulation men’s tees (6,744 yards) before numerous renovations were made to the course, including the completion of the championship-length tees (7,011 yards) that Baldwin played from.
Baldwin registered an eagle and two birdies on the front nine and went out in 31 (-4), before coming home with a 32 on the back nine (four birdies, one bogey). He actually had an opportunity to push his score even lower, three-putting for a bogey on No. 16, before rebounding with consecutive birdies to close out his historic round.
Last Tournament – Aggie Invitational
Despite trailing the rest of the field heading into Sunday’s play at the Aggie Invitational, Notre Dame turned in one of the low rounds on the final day of action. The Irish fired a nine-over par 297 at the par 72, 7,235-yard Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas, to finish with a 54-hole total of 919 (318-304-297) and in 14th place. Sophomore Cole Isban began the day in a tie for 26th yet climbed all the way up to 17th after carding an even par 72 on the day and a 221 (77-72-72) for the tournament.
Oklahoma State took home the team title with a three round total of 870 (+6) and Oklahoma’s Anthony Kim and New Mexico’s Spencer Levin shared medalist honors with six-under par 210s. Ten of the 14 teams in the field are either ranked in the top-25 of the latest GCAA Coaches’ Poll or are receiving votes including the Irish, who garnered three votes. Oklahoma State is No. 1, while New Mexico joins the Cowboys in the top-five at No. 5.
Junior Mark Baldwin finished tied for 36th after firing rounds of 78, 75 and 75 for a 12-over par 228 total. Baldwin’s classmate, Scott Gustafson turned in his best round of the event with a one-over par 73 on Sunday and finished with a 231 (82-76-73), which was good for a tie at 51st. Fellow junior Eric Deutsch tallied a 78 on the day to go with rounds of 81 and 82 fired on Saturday to conclude with a 241 and in 69th-place.
Freshman Greg Rodgers also recorded his best round of the invitational on Sunday with a five-over par 77 to finish with a 247 (89-81-77) and in a tie for 72nd. Sophomore Shane Sigsbee, who played as an individual, rounded out the field for the Irish with a 261 (91-77-93) to place 74th.
Next For The Irish
Notre Dame’s future tournaments this season hinge upon its success at this weekend’s BIG EAST Championship. Should the Irish defend their conference title, they will receive the BIG EAST’s automatic bid to the 2005 NCAA Regionals, and likely will be placed in the Central Regional, which will take place May 19-22 at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course.
If the Irish do not win the league title, they will wait for the announcement of the at-large selections to the 2005 NCAA Regionals, set to take place May 9.