April 15, 2011
The Fighting Irish men’s golf squad is looking to start a new streak of BIG EAST titles at the 2011 BIG EAST Championship, which begins on Sunday, April 17 on the Copperhead Course of the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. Each of Notre Dame’s six BIG EAST titles has come as part of a three-year streak, as the Irish captured the league crown from 1995-97 (championship held in the fall) and from 2004-06. Notre Dame has never finished lower than fifth in the tournament since joining the conference for the 1995-96 campaign.
This season marks the 32nd BIG EAST Championship for men’s golf, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. Notre Dame’s 11 competitors will be Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall, USF and Villanova.
The tournament will include 54 holes, with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday consisting of one 18-hole round each. Each team’s lineup will include five golfers, with the lowest four scores for each round counting towards the overall team score for that day. All three days of play will begin with groups teeing off at 8:00 a.m. (ET). The Sunday groupings, based on a blind draw, have Notre Dame teeing off with Cincinnati and Georgetown beginning at 8:00 a.m. and continuing in 10-minute intervals. On Sunday and Monday, all golfers will go off the first tee, with tee times running through 11:10 a.m. Then for Tuesday’s final round, there will be a split-tee start that runs through 9:30 a.m. The teams will be reseeded on Monday and Tuesday based on their scores from the previous round.
Notre Dame’s probable lineup will feature senior Connor Alan-Lee (Solana Beach, Calif.), juniors Max Scodro (Chicago, Ill.) and Chris Walker (The Woodlands, Texas), sophomore Paul McNamara III (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.) and freshman Niall Platt (Santa Barbara, Calif.). Scodro and Walker will look to provide valuable leadership to the Irish this time around, making their second consecutive trip to the Copperhead Course after finishing runner-up last season.
Following the Irish At The Championship
Daily recaps will be posted to und.com, while complete results and updated tee times will be posted on www.bigeast.org. Also, video highlights of the entire championship can be seen free of charge at the BIG EAST page as well. Live scoring of the championship will be available through www.Golfstat.com.
The 2011 BIG EAST Men’s championship will be contested on the Copperhead Course (par 71/7,340 yards) at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla. It will mark the second consecutive year that the BIG EAST Championship has been played at Innisbrook and remains one of the 13 different courses that has played host to the conference championship.
The resort has consistently received top accolades – including Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 You Can Play,” and Golf Digest’s “Top 75 Golf Resorts in America” – it also hosts an annual PGA Tour championship and the LPGA Legend Tour’s first major.
BIG EAST History
Notre Dame has participated in each of the past 15 BIG EAST Championships and finished among the top three 12 times since joining the conference. The Irish have won six titles (1995, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2006) to-date, 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 was at 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 five times (1998 – tie with St. John’s, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010) and taken third-place honors one time (2000).
Notre Dame At The 2010 Championship
Tom Usher and Max Scodro shared first place after 54 holes of golf, en route to the Irish finishing in second place to Georgetown, the highest Irish finish since the squad claimed second at the 2006-07 championship. Both Usher and Scodro finished their tournament’s at 215 (+2) to earn a share of first alongside St. John’s Evan Beirne and Georgetown’s Vincenzo Salina, who went on to claim medalist honors with his playoff victory.
The Irish trailed the Hoyas by eight shots going into the final day of golf. Notre Dame was able to trim away seven shots on the lead, but couldn’t quite get over the hump, finishing one shot back of Georgetown with a three-day mark of 874 (+22).
Chris Walker, Doug Fortner and Josh Sandman rounded out the Irish squad, finishing 23rd, 34th and 37th, respectively. Walker played his final two rounds at one-over par to finish at 222 (+9). Both Fortner and Sandman saved their best rounds for last, carding a 73 and 71, respectively, to finish at 226 (+13) and 227 (+14) for the tournament.
From 2003-08, earning all-BIG EAST status was based on finishing in the top-10 at the conference’s championship event. Starting last season, the 10-member all-BIG EAST team shifted to a coaches vote. Each coach will submit a ballot with five nominees in order of rank after the BIG EAST Championship, while also voting for a Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year. Announcement of the 2011 honorees is scheduled to be released at the end of April.
All told, Notre Dame has had 17 players earn a total of 28 all-BIG EAST citations, with Mark Baldwin (2003, 05-06), Cole Isban (2004-05, ’07) and Doug Fortner (2008-10) leading the way with three apiece. Max Scodro looks to join Baldwin, Isban and Fortner as three-time all-conference honorees, as he was named to the all-BIG EAST team in each his freshman and sophomore campaign. Tom Usher is the only other member of the current Irish team to earn all-BIG EAST status, doing so last season after earning a share of first place at the BIG EAST Championship.
Twelve Irish players earned the all-conference nod in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference from 1984-94, giving Notre Dame a total of 29 all-conference players who have combined for 46 all-league selections.
BIG EAST Medalists
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).
The Irish almost claimed their fifth honors, as Usher and Scodro sat tied for the lead after 54 holes of last year’s tournament, but a playoff crowned Georgetown’s Vincenzo Salina as champion.
Versus The BIG EAST Field
During the 2010-11 season, the Irish have posted a 4-1 record versus BIG EAST opposition including a 1-0 mark against Cincinnati, Georgetown and Seton Hall and a 1-1 record against Marquette.
At The Match Play, which was played on Feb. 11-12 during the spring slate, the Irish suffered their lone setback against BIG EAST opposition, falling to Marquette in the quarterfinals. Both teams split the five points being contested, but due to tiebreaker rules the Golden Eagles were awarded the victory. Tiebreaker was determined based off of greater number of holes that matches were won by.
The win over Marquette came at the St. Mary’s Invitational on the Bayonet & Blackhorse Golf Courses, which was played on Oct. 25-26. The Irish claimed medalist honors (861, -3), while Marquette placed ninth (898, +34).
The remaining three victories all came on Notre Dame’s home course at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic back on Sept. 27-28. The Irish finished second at the event (859, +19), while Georgetown finished 10th (891, +51), Cincinnati finished 12th (894, +54) and Seton Hall finished 14th (900, +60).
Fighting Irish head coach Jim Kubinski shares some thougts on the upcoming BIG EAST Championship:
On the lineup heading into the championship… “We’ll have our two junior stalwarts in there. Both Max and Chris played well at Copperhead last year. Max was Co-Medalist but a lot of people forget how well Chris played after that tough start in the pouring rain on the first day. He played extremely well the last 45 holes or so. It will certainly help to have some experience in there as we’ll fill out our lineup with three players new to Copperhead in Niall Platt, Paul McNamara and Connor Alan-Lee. The underclassmen, Niall and Paul, probably aren’t so young anymore though. They’ve played enough events to feel comfortable, as has our senior, Connor, over his four years. It’s a hard working group and one capable of posting excellent scores.”
On what winning the Battle at the Warren just days before heading to the BIG EAST Championships will do for the team’s psyche… “Hosting on Tuesday was fun. It was nice to see such high quality play. It could give us a little confidence boost but, in all honesty, I’m not sure why our team wouldn’t have had a great deal of confidence regardless of Tuesday. We didn’t play well at LSU a couple weeks ago but that should have no impact on our team’s confidence level. A college golf season is the longest of any collegiate sport, playing Fall and Spring, covering upwards of eight months. Tough rounds and a disappointing finish or two happen. Great players miss cuts on the PGA TOUR. Our whole body of work shows we’ve played strong rounds about 90% of the time this season. Our guys have that perspective. We’re very confident and looking forward to the weekend.”
On what type of leadership can be expected from this year’s team… “In terms of leadership, I think our sport is different than most any other. Our player’s head out on the course and don’t see much of each other until the round is over. It’s such an individual game and one where excess emotion and even something like being overly motivated can take away from one’s play. I think there’s just a sense of spirit that the three juniors bring, which the rest of our guys can benefit from. There’s a lot of fight in that junior class; a lot of competiveness. I think it sets an environment where our guys throughout the lineup are going to battle all the way. I look at how our freshman, Niall, fought back at LSU from such an awful first round to two excellent scores. That’s not easy for young players to do. I think that’s where the leadership is most valued.”
On the competition at the BIG EAST Tournament… “The field this week is one that will be underrated for those looking strictly at rankings. As March Madness basketball always shows, seeding means nothing once you begin playing a championship. There will be teams that have not had great seasons who come out and play very well. It happens every year. I expect two or three teams to do a great job this weekend. We’ll need to play solidly throughout. In terms of talent though, I think our players from #1 to #5 are the best collection competing. We just need to play confidently and comfortably. If we’re able to do that, we’ll have a great chance to be successful, come Tuesday.”
Last Time Out – Battle At The Warren
The Fighting Irish men’s golf team topped Oakland by 11 strokes to claim the second-annual Battle at the Warren. The field expanded to five teams this year, after featuring only Detroit two seasons ago. Jeff Chen, playing as an individual, carded the best round to-date of his Irish career at two under par (69).
The Irish staring five consisted of the same lineup that will be competing at the BIG EAST Championship. Max Scodro led the way at two under par (69), but was followed closely by Chris Walker (70, -1), Niall Platt (71, E), Paul McNamara III (71, E) and Connor Alan-Lee (73, +2). The competition for Alan-Lee was important, as he gained his first team experience since playing in the Firestone Invitational back on Oct. 11-12.
In addition to Chen, three other Notre Dame golfers competed as individuals. Andrew Lane finished five over par (76), Dustin Zhang ended at six over par (77) and Andrew Carreon concluded at 11 over par (82).
Top Of The Crop
The Irish golf team enjoyed one of their hottest starts to a season in program history, notching five straight top-two finishes in their fall slate. In addition to finishing runner-up at each of their first four tournaments of the year, the Irish also topped the leader board at the St. Mary’s Invitational for their first team victory of the season.
With their recent win in the Battle at the Warren, the Irish earned two team medalist honors for the second straight season, after winning both the ’09 Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic and the ’10 Bandon Dunes Championship two seasons ago.