Feb. 6, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On the heels of one of its most successful fall seasons ever, the Notre Dame men’s golf team will open its 2004 spring campaign Monday and Tuesday at the Rice Intercollegiate in Cypress, Texas. The Irish will be making their first appearance at the four-year-old tournament, which is being contested at the BlackHorse Golf Club, located just northwest of Houston. Notre Dame enjoyed tremendous improvement last fall, posting a pair of top-two finishes and the lowest 54-hole score in school history. The Irish also won their first tournament in more than four years, claiming a one-stroke victory at the SMU/Stonebridge Invitational in October.
The Teams: This year’s Rice Intercollegiate features a 15-team field that includes Denver, Louisiana-Lafayette, Mississippi State, North Texas, Northwestern, Rice, Sam Houston State, San Diego, Stephen F. Austin, Texas-Arlington, Texas-Pan American, Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and Virginia. Northwestern is the defending tournament champion, winning last year’s event by 18 strokes with a one-over par 865. The Wildcats also are the only other Midwest District team competing with Notre Dame in this week’s tournament, and NU is one of two participating teams that are ranked in the Top 50 of the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings — the Wildcats are No. 22, while Texas-San Antonio checks in at No. 46.
Dates and Times: The 54-hole tournament will commence with 36 holes on Monday, Feb. 9, beginning with a shotgun start at 7:30 a.m. (CST). Tuesday’s final round will be seeded based on team scores from the first 36 holes and also will start with a 7:30 a.m. (CST) shotgun start.
Irish Lineup: Third-year Notre Dame head coach John Jasinski is bringing a very young squad to Houston for this week’s tournament. Of the eight players in the travel party, seven are freshmen or sophomores, with senior captain Gavin Ferlic (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian HS) serving as the graybeard of the group. All-BIG EAST sophomores Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie HS) and Tommy Balderston (Boca Raton, Fla./St. Andrews HS) are likely to be the Irish lineup, along with a pair of talented freshmen, Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian HS) and Shane Sigsbee (McKinney, Texas/McKinney HS). The fifth spot is still to be decided, with sophomores Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H./New Hampton Prep) and Eric Deutsch (Rochester, Minn./Lourdes HS) having the inside track.
Last Tournament: This will be Notre Dame’s first tournament of the spring season. The Irish last hit the links on Oct. 24-26, 2003, finishing 12th at The Nelson Invitational, hosted by Stanford. Notre Dame fired a school-record 863 (+11) in the event, posting three consecutive sub-290 rounds to break the old Irish mark of 866, which was set at the 1999 Kent State/Cobra Collegiate. Isban was Notre Dame’s top finisher at The Nelson, tying for 18th place with a one-under par 212 (69-71-72).
Irish Leaders: Gustafson set the pace for Notre Dame during the fall season, carding a career-best 73.86 stroke average that included a career-low six-under par 210 and a third-place finish at the SMU/Stonebridge Invitational. Isban gave a glimpse of things to come for the Irish, turning in the second-best stroke average on the team in the fall (74.30) and shooting 73 or lower in 10 of his final 13 rounds. As a team, Notre Dame had a 298.57 fall stroke average, which would stand as the third-best mark in school history if it holds up all year.
Tournament Results: Results will be available on the Notre Dame website at www.und.com after 6 p.m. (EST) on both days of the tournament.
Next For The Irish: Notre Dame will go on a three-week hiatus before returning to action March 1-2 at the Cleveland Golf Classic in Westlake Village, Calif.
– ND –