Sept. 24, 2013
By Staci Gasser
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s golf team had what it deemed as a disappointing showing at the eighth annual Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, but will use the tournament as a learning experience for upcoming matches.
The Irish placed seventh among the 13 programs in the field after posting a 296 in the third round, adding to rounds of 294-291 on Monday for a final total of 881.
The golfers played three 18-hole rounds over two days in a five-count-four scoring format.
Houston won the overall tournament with tournament record score of 847 (282-283-282, -5). Houston’s Kyle Pilgrim took first on the individual leaderboard after posting rounds of 71-71-66-208 (-5). Blair Hamilton (70-70-69), also of Houston, tied for second with Georgia Southern Will Evans (72-68-69), who each shot a total of 209.
Michigan State (284-294-284) placed second and Yale placed third (291-289-287). In his fourth and final Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic start, Irish senior Niall Platt jumped seven spots up the leaderboard after a third round score of 69 with three birdies, finishing the tournament in a tie for 12th place at 215. The Irish tri-captain fired a 74 in round one but came back strong with a 72 in the afternoon on day one.
Platt was the only Notre Dame starter to shoot a score under 75 in the third round.
“It is strange because our form coming in the last two or three weeks has been really strong,” Irish head coach Jim Kubinski said. “The freshmen have had the lowest scores of the team, averaging 71 or 72 in the qualifying [rounds], so to not break 75 was somewhat disappointing.”
Freshman Matt Rushton, who led all Irish players after day one with a 74 and 70 in the first two rounds, finished in 27th place after a final round 77 (74-70-77-221).
Kubinski said the team spent a lot of time in preparation for the event identifying areas of the Warren Golf Course to try to avoid, either laying back a little more at certain spots or trying to hit past other spots, but the Irish golfers fell into many of those so-called traps throughout the tournament.
And those traps intensified the pressure and frustration among the Irish players.
“I think it’s interesting in that when we play qualifying and guys are trying to compete for their spots, they play for themselves and don’t feel the weight of the whole team,” Kubinski said. “They don’t feel like they’re letting someone down, and so they accept their shots at that point, Here, they aren’t really accepting the results. They’re getting frustrated and not staying positive and upbeat, so those are things they can improve.
“Although it stings right now and it’s disappointing right now, I think in the long run, this will be good for us.”
Kubinski said the Notre Dame players have pinpointed areas they need to work on in the coming weeks, particularly keeping the emotional maturity high.
“One thing I’m going to try to stress this week is to share a few personal stories of things that happen to us in life that are far more meaningful than what we are doing now, so that (the players) can put their fours and bad swings into perspective and realize it’s not the end of the world and to not carry that with them,” Kubinski said. “So they can move on and start making pars.”
The last time the Irish captured the team title at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic was back in 2009, when Notre Dame’s Josh Sandman fought off Lamar’s Kevin Hesbois by two strokes for medalist honors and an Irish sweep of the tournament awards.
The next tournament for the Irish is the Crooked Stick Intercollegiate on Oct. 14 and 15, in Carmel, Ind., followed by the Georgetown Intercollegiate in Beallsville, Md. on Oct. 21 and 22.