April 1, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Fresh off a three-week hiatus after a three consecutive top-four finishes to begin the spring 2005 season, Notre Dame will face perhaps its biggest challenge to date when it participates in the Augusta State Invitational, presented by Administaff, Saturday and Sunday at the Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
This weekend’s tournament features an exceptionally strong field that includes nine of the top 25 teams in the nation, led by No. 3 Georgia, No. 8 Wake Forest and No. 10 Southern California.
Quoting Coach Kubinski …
“There is no question that Augusta State hosts a marquee event in terms of the quality of the field. There are a number of top teams from both the ACC and SEC competing, in addition to some other highly-ranked teams such as Souther California, Augusta State and Georgia Southern. With such a strong field of `warmer climate universities’ competing, we’ll need to be ready to play from the opening tee shot. It’s a great test for us.
“We’ve had success in both New Orleans and Myrtle Beach thus far, but this event could really move us up in the rankings. We’re hoping Cole (Isban) is back in good health and ready to go because he can make such a difference. I expect Shane (Sigsbee) to continue his great play and look for Mark (Baldwin) to break through. Mark has had a number of outstanding rounds going only let a shot or two slip coming in. I also look for Greg Rodgers to step up as well — he is swinging very well right now and I love his game. The pieces are here. We just need to get locked in and compete. If we compete as well as I know we can, I would not be surprised to see us raise a few eyebrows and a trophy come Sunday night in Augusta.”
Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, with the opening rounds teeing off via a shotgun start at 8 a.m. (ET). Notre Dame is paired with Toledo and North Florida and will go off from the No. 13-15 tees. The second round will also utilize the shotgun start format approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the first round. Competitors will then return Sunday morning for the final round, which will begin at 9 a.m. (ET) with preassigned tee times based upon the tournament standings through 36 holes.
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 18 five-man teams (90 participants, with the possibility of some teams fielding additional golfers on an individual basis) will be participating in the Augusta State Invitational. 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. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis do not count to the team total.
To say this year’s Augusta State Invitational is loaded would be a gross understatement. The event features an 18-team field that includes the following squads: Alabama, Augusta State, UCF (Central Florida), Clemson, Duke, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Minnesota (the defending champion), North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Southern California, Toledo, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Illustrating the strength of this weekend’s tournament, no less than nine teams in the field are ranked in the latest Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA)/Bridgestone Coaches’ Poll (as of March 25). No. 3 Georgia, which received a pair of first-place votes in the poll, leads a trio of top-10 teams in the field, followed by eighth-ranked Wake Forest and No. 10 Southern California. Also competing this weekend will be No. 14 Duke, No. 17 Augusta State, No. 19 Clemson, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 25 Alabama. Two other teams are receiving votes in the latest coaches’ poll — Georgia Southern (56 votes; would be 26th if the poll were extended) and North Carolina (three votes; 44th).
This year, Notre Dame has posted an 8-5-1 (.607) record against the field at the Augusta State Invitational, having previously faced 10 of the other 17 teams in the event. The Irish are 2-1 against Toledo (wins at Inverness Intercollegiate and Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview; loss at Windon Memorial Classic), 1-0-1 against UCF (win at General Jim Hackler Invitational; tie at Inverness Intercollegiate); 1-1 vs. North Florida (win at General Jim Hackler Invitational; loss at Windon Memorial Classic) and 1-0 against Augusta State (Inverness Intercollegiate), East Tennessee State (General Jim Hackler Invitational), North Carolina State (Windon Memorial Classic) and Virginia Tech (General Jim Hackler Invitational). Notre Dame is 0-1 this season against Duke (Windon Memorial Classic), Georgia Southern (Inverness Intercollegiate) and Minnesota (Windon Memorial Classic).
This weekend’s Augusta State Invitational will be played at the Forest Hills Golf Club (par 72/7,231 yards) in Augusta, Ga. Originally designed by renowned golf architect Donald Ross, the layout hosted the Southeastern Open, which was won by the legendary Bobby Jones in 1930, the year he went on to capture golf’s Grand Slam. Augusta State acquired the property in 1978 and it has become the home course for the Jaguars ever since.
Notre Dame at the Augusta State Invitational
The Irish are playing in the Augusta State Invitational for the second consecutive year. In 2004, Notre Dame tied with Georgia Southern and Toledo for 14th place in the 18-team field, carding a 28-over par 892 (298-300-294). Mark Baldwin was the top Irish finisher, tying for 18th place with a two-over par 218 (74-74-70).
Perhaps no one player should benefit more from Notre Dame’s recent three-week layoff than sophomore Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind.). One of the anchors in the Notre Dame lineup this year, Isban had to battle through a bout of bronchitis, as well as a minor eye injury in the past two tournaments, keeping him at less than 100 percent. Still, he has started all eight tournaments to date for the Irish and owns a team-best 74.13 stroke average this year (75.44 in the spring) and has placed in the top-five in three events, peaking with a runner-up finish at The Prestige at PGA WEST in early November. In his last outing, he tied for 30th place at the General Jim Hackler Invitational (229, +13).
Junior Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H.) has emerged as one of the more consistent players on the Notre Dame roster this year. Baldwin registered his fourth consecutive top-20 finish in early March at the General Jim Hackler Invitational with a tie for 14th (225, +9). Currently, he owns a career-low 75.28 stroke average, which is fourth-best on the team this year, and he is tops on the squad with a 75.22 mark this spring.
Freshman Greg Rodgers (Phoenix, Md.) has shown the greatest potential of any of the Notre Dame rookies this year, starting seven tournaments in his first year under the Golden Dome. Rodgers has recorded a 75.52 stroke average (fifth on the team) and has twice placed in the top 20, with his best finish being a tie for 14th place at the Irish Spring Invitational. In his last outing at the General Jim Hackler Invitational, Rodgers just missed the top 20, settling for a 21st-place tie (227, +11).
Sophomore Shane Sigsbee (McKinney, Texas) made his first start of the spring at last month’s General Jim Hackler Invitational and didn’t disappoint, matching the best finish of his career with a tie for second place (215, -1).Sigsbee has competed in five events this season, ranking third on the team with a 74.40 stroke average. His 75.33 spring total also is second on the squad.
Junior Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) earned the final spot on the Irish travel roster this weekend after winning a mid-week playoff with classmate Eric Deutsch (Rochester, Minn.). Gustafson has had an up-and-down season, due in part to his ongoing recovery from injuries suffered in an automobile accident during the fall. He has a 77.22 stroke average this season in six tournaments, but his 75.16 career mark currently ranks ninth in school history.
Last Tournament — General Jim Hackler Invitational
Behind a strong final-round score of 298, Notre Dame jumped two spots to finish second overall at the General Jim Hackler Invitational, which was contested March 13-14 in Murrells Inlet, S.C. The Irish carded a 54-hole total of 27-over par 891 (299-294-298) to wind up a mere five strokes behind tournament host and champion Coastal Carolina. The final-round 298 was the second-lowest of the day among the 12 teams in the field and it allowed Notre Dame to move past Purdue and Kansas State into the runner-up spot. It also was the third time in as many tournaments this spring the Irish finished in the top four.
Playing as a member of the starting lineup for the first time this spring, sophomore Shane Sigsbee came within an eyelash of capturing his first tournament title, finishing tied for second place at one-under par 215 (73-70-72), one shot behind medalist Rhys Davis of East Tennessee State. Sigsbee’s runner-up placement matches the best finish of his career (also at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational last October) and it was his third top-five showing of the season.
Junior Mark Baldwin has remained a consistent presence in the Irish lineup this season and this week was no different, as the Notre Dame veteran tied for 14th place at nine-over par 225 (74-77-74). In three spring tournaments, Baldwin has placed among the top 20 each time and has had all nine rounds count to the team score.
Freshman Greg Rodgers finished two shots behind Baldwin in a 21st-place tie at 11-over par 227 (79-73-75). Meanwhile, sophomore Cole Isban continued to fight through a bout with bronchitis, ending up in a tie for 30th place at 13-over par 229 (73-74-82). Junior Scott Gustafson rounded out the Notre Dame scoring in a 54th-place draw at 25-over par 241 (84-80-77).
Getting Off On The Right Foot
The Irish have posted their best team scores during the first round of tournament play this year, carding a 298.38 over the opening 18 holes. Among those leading the charge in the first round are the two sophomores in this week’s lineup — Cole Isban (73.13) and Shane Sigsbee (74.00).
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
Following another week off, Notre Dame will have one final chance to tune up for the BIG EAST Conference Championship when it ventures to College Station, Texas, April 16-17 for the Texas A&M Invitational. The Irish previously competed in the Aggies’ tournament in 2003 (when it was called the Border Olympics) and placed 14th in the 20-team field.
In addition, some Notre Dame golfers will compete as individuals at the Cleveland State Invitational April 11-12. However, the Irish will not be part of the team competition at that tournament.
— ND —