March 20, 2008
National Invitational Tournament
Sunday-Tuesday, March 23-25, 2008
8 a.m. (PT) each day
Omni Tucson National Golf Club/Catalina Course
Par 72/7,033 yards
Irish Looking To Go Low In Valley Of The Sun
Few teams in the country have played a schedule as tough as the one Notre Dame has seen this season. The Irish will take part in their ninth consecutive top-50 event Sunday through Tuesday when they make the program’s first-ever appearance in the state of Arizona for the National Invitational Tournament at the Omni Tucson National Golf Club.
The Catalina Course is considered demanding, but also open to low scoring, which should suit a Notre Dame squad that is coming off its best outing of the spring at last week’s Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational. The Irish finished at 888 (+24), good for a 12th-place tie with 11th-ranked Auburn and only seven strokes from an upper-division finish at the high-powered tournament, which featured 12 top-50 teams, including seven who were appearing in the Golfweek Top 25.
Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“This is a huge event for us in terms of NCAA qualifications. We’ve gained a lot of experience this spring playing several underclassmen within our starting five, but we’ve also taken a few more losses than in the fall. To get back to the mandated .500 record for NCAAs, we need to finish in the top four in Tucson. Otherwise, we’ll need to look at the BIG EAST tournament automatic bid.
“We’re certainly improving with each event this spring. We had a slow start, but the guys are really battling. Josh (Sandman) is playing as well as anyone in the country. Doug (Fortner) has gained some momentum and confidence, and Carl (Santos-Ocampo) competed well in Georgia despite an illness. We’re adding Eddie (Peckels) and Dustin (Zhang) this week, both of whom are deserving of this opportunity after strong outings in Charleston. They can give us a lift, and we’re looking for this lineup to be in contention come Tuesday.”
Dates and Times
Teams will play single rounds (18 holes) on each day of the tournament, beginning at 8 a.m. PT (11 a.m. ET in South Bend) from Sunday through Tuesday. The start format (shotgun start, split-tee) was not determined at press time.
Following The Irish
Live scoring for the National Invitational Tournament 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 National Invitational Tournament 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 15 five-man teams (75 participants, plus the possibility of additional golfers competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the National Invitational Tournament. 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 Arizona (which will field varsity and junior varsity squads), the remaining schools in the 15-team field for the National Invitational Tournament are: Arizona State, Houston, Iowa, Kent State, New Mexico, Pepperdine, Sam Houston State, TCU, Tulsa, UNLV, UTEP and Virginia.
According to the March 12 edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll, No. 19 UNLV is the lone ranked club competing in this week’s tournament. However, three other squads are receiving votes in the latest coaches’ balloting — Arizona State (41 points, 28th if the poll were extended), Pepperdine (15 points, 32nd) and Arizona (eight points, tie-37th).
Meanwhile, the March 17 ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that four of this week’s field are ranked among the top 50 in the nation. Leading the way is 15th-ranked UNLV, followed by No. 27 Arizona State, No. 28 Pepperdine and No. 43 Kent State.
In addition, the March 19 Golfstat rankings also indicate four of this week’s participants are appearing in that service’s Top 50. Again, UNLV sets the bar at No. 20, with Arizona State (33rd), Pepperdine (35th) and Kent State (39th) also on the first page of the rankings, and TCU (52nd) not far behind.
Notre Dame has previously faced six of the other 13 varsity teams in the National Invitational Tournament field during the 2007-08 season, compiling a 4-4 (.500) record against those schools. For the season, the Irish are 40-63-5 (.394) against Division I varsity opponents, with a 6-48-4 (.138) record against Golfweek Top 50 clubs (2-24-1 vs. the Top 25).
The Catalina Course at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort is one of the country’s finest layouts, evidenced by its selection as one of Golf Digest’s “75 Best Golf Resorts in North America”. The par 72 course, which plays at more than 7,000 yards from the tips, has hosted more than 30 PGA Tour events (most recently the 2006 Chrysler Classic of Tucson, won by Kirk Triplett), as well as the 2006 NCAA West Regional (with Arizona and Florida sharing the regional title with a staggering 37-under par 827).
Opening in 1963, the Catalina Course was designed by Robert Van Hagge and eight-time PGA Tour winner Bruce Devlin. The course uses a Parkland-style layout with eight lakes, 80 bunkers, and Bermuda grass fairways and greens. What’s more, the signature 18th hole at Catalina was considered one of the toughest on the PGA Tour when it hosted the Chrysler Classic, with the fairway narrowing away from the tee and water lurking on either side.
Noting The National Invitational Tournament
- Notre Dame is making its first-ever appearance at Arizona’s annual spring tournament. In fact, the Irish have never played in the Valley of the Sun during the program’s 79 seasons of existence.
- Notre Dame has had just one monogram winner from the state of Arizona in its history. Paul Nolta earned four monograms with the Irish from 1987-88 through 1990-91, helping Notre Dame to a pair of Midwestern Collegiate Conference titles (now known as the Horizon League). Nolta also has team-high finishes in three tournaments during his career (best showing was a tie for 14th at 11-over par 153 in the 1991 Indiana Invitational) and carded a career-best 78.67 stroke average as a senior in 1990-91.
- Each of Notre Dame’s first eight tournaments this year have been ranked among the 41 strongest events in the nation by Golfweek. That includes a current stretch of four consecutive Top 25 tournaments, led by the No. 7-ranked John Hayt Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 17-19.
- The Irish will make two lineup changes this week, with senior tri-captain Eddie Peckels and freshman Dustin Zhang getting the nod. Peckels owns a 76.08 stroke average in four tournaments this season (75.78 career in 55 rounds) and returns to the lineup after starting the first three events of the fall season. His most recent outing resulted in a ninth-place finish at the Charleston Southern Spring Kickoff (a “B” team event), where Peckels shot a season-low seven-over par 220 (72-75-73). Meanwhile, Zhang will make his debut on the Irish travel squad after registering a 77.22 stroke average in three events (twice on the “B” team and once as an individual). He tied for 32nd place at the CSU Spring Kickoff (232, +19) in his last tournament, and also had a season-best tie for eighth place (219, +6) at the Rutgers Invitational on Sept. 14-15.
- Zhang is the first foreign-born player to crack the Notre Dame lineup since April 28-29, 2001, when Alex Kent (Asuncion, Paraguay) wrapped up his career at the BIG EAST Conference Championship in East Providence, R.I.
Last Time Out: Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational
Notre Dame finished in a 12th-place tie at the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, which concluded March 16 at the Forest Heights Country Club (par 72/6,962 yards) in Statesboro, Ga. The Irish posted a three-round total of 24-over par 888 (297-294-297), finishing even with No. 11 Auburn and two shots ahead of 15th-ranked Michigan State in the 18-team tournament, which was won by second-ranked Alabama (849, -15).
Junior Josh Sandman collected his second consecutive top-10 finish (and fifth of his career), tying for sixth with a career-low score of four-under par 212 (73-71-68). Sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo wrapped up a solid tournament in a tie for 44th place at six-over par 222 (76-73-73), posting his best score as a member of the Irish travel squad and one shot off his best career 54-hole mark. Sophomore Doug Fortner finished two strokes behind his classmate in a tie for 56th place at eight-over par 224 (74-76-74).
After two good early rounds, freshman Tyler Hock slipped to an 83rd-place tie at 15-over par 231 (74-74-83). Meanwhile, freshman Connor Alan-Lee wound up in a tie for 92nd place at 18-over par 234 (76-76-82).
Notre Dame has gotten a significant boost from its underclassmen, with its two lowest scorers (and five of the top six) being either freshmen or sophomores. Freshman Jeff Chen (73.67), who has played exclusively as an individual or “B” team member, ranks second on the squad behind junior Josh Sandman (73.55), while sophomore Doug Fortner (73.82) has teamed with Sandman to form the cornerstone of the Irish varsity squad. Sophomores Kyle Willis (75.08) and Carl Santos-Ocampo (75.40), and freshman Tyler Hock (75.79) also have contributed on the Notre Dame travel squad.
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 40-63-5 (.394) 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 15 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: Notre Dame Spring Invitational (April 5)
Notre Dame will host a one-day, 36-hole tournament on April 5 at its on-campus Warren Golf Course. Some of the teams scheduled to compete include: Cleveland State, IPFW and Penn.
— ND —