Jim Kubinski has been named the new head men's golf coach at the University of Notre Dame (photo courtesy of Jon Gardiner at Duke University).

Irish Seek Back-To-Back Tournament Victories As They Prepare To Host The 2005 Irish Spring Invitational

March 4, 2005

Monday-Tuesday, March 7-8, 2005
8 a.m. (ET) tee times both days
Mission Inn Resort/El Campeon Course
(7,037 Yards, Par 72)
Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

Irish Set To Host Second Tournament Of ’04-05 Season Fresh off a thrilling sudden-death playoff victory at the NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational this past Tuesday, the Notre Dame men’s golf team will look to carry over that positive momentum as it plays host to the Irish Spring Invitational March 7-8 in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., on the El Campeon (“The Champion”) Course at the Mission Inn Resort.

The Irish Spring Invitational is the second of four tournaments that Notre Dame will play host to during the 2004-05 season. However, it is the only one of the four that will not take place on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. Back in September, the Irish hosted the Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview, which was split between Lost Dunes Golf Club in Bridgman, Mich., and Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course. In April, Notre Dame will be the venue for the BIG EAST Championship, and a month later in May, the Warren Golf Course will welcome the NCAA Central Regional.

The Irish also will be seeking to win back-to-back tournaments for the first time since the start of the 1999-2000 season. That year, Notre Dame opened the campaign with a victory at the Air Force Invitational, followed by another triumph at the Legends of Indiana. After a third-place finish at the Xavier Invitaitonal, the Irish returned to the top of the podium by earning the crown at the Louisville Intercollegiate, capping an impressive run of three championships in four fall tournaments.

Quoting Coach Kubinski
“I’m just so proud of these guys for the way they competed at Tulane. We showed a lot of fight throughout the tournament and it was a total team victory. We weren’t able to get a really good feel for the course (Tuesday), but we hung there and once we got to the playoff, we were pumped and ready to take care of business. It was definitely the most exciting playoff I’ve ever seen, let alone be a part of as a coach. Our guys hit some unbelievable shots in sudden death and really rose to the challenge.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Monday, with the opening round teeing off via a shotgun start at 8 a.m. (ET). The second round will also utilize the shotgun start format approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the first round. Competitors will then return Tuesday morning for the final round, which will begin at 8 a.m. (CT) with pre-set starts from the No. 1 and No. 10 tees.

Tournament Updates/Results
No live scoring will be available for this tournament. However, complete results following each day’s action will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com). In addition, all 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 any weather or scheduling delays.

The Tournament Format
A total of 13 five-man teams (65 participants, including five individuals from Notre Dame) will be participating in the Irish Spring Invitational. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four individual scores in each round counting toward the team total.

The Teams
This year’s Irish Spring Invitational features a 13-team field that includes the following squads: Ball State, Bowling Green, Cleveland State, Colorado State, Eastern Kentucky, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Richmond, Rollins, San Diego State, Washington State and Wichita State.
Only one team in this week’s field is receiving votes in the latest Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA)/Bridgestone Coaches’ Poll (as of Feb. 25). Wichita State is garnering four points, which would put the Shockers in a tie with Oregon State and Xavier for 42nd place nationally if the poll were extended.
In the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings (as of Feb. 27), no squad in this year’s field is appearing in Golfweek/Sagarin top 50. Notre Dame is the highest-rated team at No. 58, followed by Wichita State at No. 60 and San Diego State at No. 62.
This season, Notre Dame has posted a 2-0 record against the field at the Irish Spring Invitational, earning wins over Colorado State (The Nelson Invitational) and Richmond (Windon Memorial Classic) during the fall 2004 campaign.

The Course
This week’s Irish Spring Invitational will be played at the Mission Inn Resort on the El Campeon Course (par 72/7,037 yards) in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. Utilizing the Spanish word for “champion,” the course opened in 1926 and was designed by Charles E. Clarke of Troon, Scotland. It is ranked among the top 10 out of more than 1,400 courses in the state of Florida and blends unusual elevation changes of more than 85 feet with features of traditional golf design that includes rolling fairways and undulating greens. The layout’s signature hole is the par-5 17th, a 538-yard double dogleg that has more obstacles than some entire courses.

Irish Lineup
During the past two-plus seasons, the Notre Dame men’s golf team has gained a world of experience in a variety of different settings. The Irish have had their mettle tested in every way, from a stirring final-round comeback in the 2004 BIG EAST Championship to nearly advancing to the NCAA Championship final in its first Central Regional appearance in 38 years. This season, Notre Dame added another nugget in its basket of knowledge, learning how to remain focused and determined in the face of a sudden-death playoff, a situation none of the players had faced in their college careers. However, the Irish remain resolute and peaked brilliantly on the first extra hole, carding two birdies and three pars with five stellar one-putts to secure a victory at the NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational.

Sophomore Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind.) has started in all six tournaments for the Irish this year, posting a team-best 73.39 stroke average. He also placed among the top five in three of those six tournaments, including an impressive runner-up finish at The Prestige at PGA WEST, an event he led until the final few holes. Last week at Tulane, Isban was tied for the lead after two rounds and wound up fifth, not to mention draining a key birdie putt in sudden death to help propel Notre Dame to the win. A 2004 U.S. Amateur Championship qualifier, Isban has logged a 74.60 career stroke average, the fifth-best mark in school history, and has six top-10 finishes in his brief collegiate career.

Junior Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) will make his spring debut this weekend after posting a 77.00 stroke average in four fall tournaments. Gustafson’s progress was hampered during the fall after he was injured in an automobile accident. He has since fully recovered and is seeking to regain the form that made him an all-BIG EAST selection in 2003 . Gustafson owns a 74.97 career stroke average with three top-five finishes in his tenure.

Junior Eric Deutsch (Rochester, Minn.) emerged as a solid contributor for Notre Dame during last season’s spring schedule, culminating with his fifth-place finish at the BIG EAST Conference Championship (earning him all-league honors) and team-best 27th-place showing at the NCAA Central Regional. After winning a pair of tournaments last summer, Deutsch returned to campus energized and has been an integral part of the Irish lineup this year, carding a 75.78 stroke average with 15 of his 18 competitive rounds counting to the team score and nine of those rounds coming in at 75 or under.

Like Gustafson, sophomore Shane Sigsbee (McKinney, Texas) is set to make his first appearance of the spring this weekend. The lanky Texan competed in three fall tournaments, two as an individual participant, and carded a superb 73.78 stroke average with two top-five finishes. His best outing came at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational in early October, when he ended up tied for second in the 90-man field with a career-low score of two-over par 212 that featured a pair of 69s in the first two rounds.

Freshman Greg Rodgers (Phoenix, Md.) is the second rookie in as many weeks to get the call in the starting lineup for Notre Dame, following Eddie Peckels’ solid outing last week in New Orleans. Rodgers had perhaps the best fall of any Irish freshman, making the travel squad for all five tournaments and registering a 75.40 stroke average. His best performance was a tie for 19th place in a tough field at the Windon Memorial Classic.

In addition to the aforementioned quintet, five other Notre Dame players will compete as individuals at this week’s Irish Spring Invitational. They are: junior Tommy Balderston (Boca Raton, Fla.), junior Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H.), freshman Mike King (Sidney, Ohio), freshman Eddie Peckels (Pinehurst, N.C.) and senior K.C. Wiseman (South Bend, Ind.).

Last Tournament
NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational Notre Dame won the NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational title on the first hole of a sudden death playoff Tuesday afternoon at the par-72, 7,078-yard English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. The Irish fired a 29-over par 893 (305-293-295) and wound up tied with UNC Wilmington at the end of the 54-hole tournament. However, Notre Dame was especially sharp in sudden death, carding two birdies and three pars – with all five players one-putting the par-four 16th hole -to edge out the Seahawks (four pars, one bogey).

Notre Dame was led in crunch time by two of its younger standouts. Sophomore Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian HS) and freshman Eddie Peckels (Pinehurst, N.C./Pope John Paul II (Fla.) HS) came up with critical birdie putts in the sudden death playoff, including a 25-footer by Peckels that drew an emphatic fist-pump from the Irish rookie. Isban followed with a short tap-in birdie and the Irish also got par savers from the edge of the green by juniors Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H./New Hampton Prep) and Eric Deutsch (Rochester, Minn./Lourdes HS), while junior Tommy Balderston (Boca Raton, Fla./St. Andrews) turned in a sensational “up-and-down” from a greenside bunker to help put Notre Dame in the winner’s circle.

Isban wobbled a bit in his final round, but still tied for fifth place at five-over par 221 (73-71-77), marking his third top-five placement in six tournaments this season. Baldwin helped pick up the slack on Tuesday, finishing a stroke behind Isban in a 12th-place tie at six-over par 222 (78-72-72). Meanwhile, Balderston and Peckels shared 19th place honors at 10-over par 226, with Balderston carding rounds of 78, 77 and 71, as opposed to Peckels’ three totals of 76, 74 and 76. Balderston’s final-round 71 was his second-lowest of the season and best mark in team play. Deutsch completed the Irish scoring with a tie for 52nd place at 19-over par 235 (83-76-76).

The Sandman Cometh
Notre Dame announced Dec. 16 that Josh Sandman (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford HS), has chosen to continue his career with the Irish, signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2005. Sandman is the first player to commit to the Irish for the 2005-06 season.

A standout on the junior golf circuit, Sandman is ranked as the 32nd-best player in the graduating class of 2005, according to the Titleist/Golfweek rankings released in mid-December. The 6-foot-1 Sandman owns a national junior scoring average of 72.69 in 23 rounds and has four top-three finishes to his credit in the last calendar year. His best efforts include a tie for second place at the 2003-04 North Carolina State High School Championships, a tie for third place at the 2004 Golfweek Invitational and a third-place showing at the 2004 Carolina Golf Association Junior Championships. He also works regularly under the watchful eye of Greensboro-area instructor Kelly Phillips.

Sandman is the son of Michael and Dawn Sandman of Greensboro, and he has three brothers (ages 21, 19 and 13).

Next For The Irish
Notre Dame wraps up its Spring Break trip March 13-14 with a trip to Murrells Inlet, S.C., for the General Jim Hackler Invitational. The tournament, hosted by Coastal Carolina, will take place at the TPC of Myrtle Beach.