Doug Fortner and the Irish are set to take part in their annual home tournament, the Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic.

Irish To Face Challenging Field In Spring Opener

Feb. 14, 2008

Tournament Notes Package in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

John Hayt Collegiate Invitational
Sunday-Tuesday, Feb. 17-19, 2008
Tee times TBA all three days
Sawgrass Country Club
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Par 72/6,895 yards

Irish To Face Challenging Field In Spring Opener
Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski has never been one to pull his team away from a challenge, and that’s exactly what the Irish will get as they open their spring schedule Sunday-Tuesday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational (hosted by North Florida). No less than 10 of the nation’s top 50 squads, including four consensus top-10 teams, will be competing in the tournament, which is considered one of the premier stops on the college golf circuit.

Notre Dame enjoyed mixed success during the fall, earning top-four finishes at Minnesota and Duke. The Irish own a 292.31 stroke average that ranks among the best in school history, with their biggest contributions coming from their underclassmen, led by sophomore Doug Fortner (72.77) and freshman/Ocala, Fla., native Tyler Hock (73.20). Junior Josh Sandman (74.00) also shot well during the fall, collecting three top-20 finishes.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“Sawgrass Country Club has always been well received by college players and is a great test. It’s all a player or coach can ask for in the sense that if you hit the shots, you can score. The real key though will be Mother Nature.

“Doug (Fortner) had a very solid fall campaign, leading the team in scoring average and really showed that he has a chance to become a top player on the national level with continued hard work and experience. I expect Josh (Sandman) and Greg (Rodgers) to build on their fall seasons, as both are very talented and offer great leadership. Josh has been playing in our No. 1 spot and, in truth, it often takes a semester for a player to become comfortable in that role. I look for Josh to have a great spring season.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play single rounds (18 holes) on each day of the tournament, lasting Sunday through Tuesday. At press time, the schedule of tee times for the event was not available. For the most up-to-date information, consult the North Florida athletics web site (

Following The Irish
Live scoring for the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational will be provided through the Golfstat web site ( In addition, complete results will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site ( The latest information from the tournament, including results, scheduling updates and weather delays, also will be available on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000).

Furthermore, results will be available via the Irish ALERT text-message system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame’s progress at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information or to sign up, visit the men’s golf page of the official Notre Dame athletics web site (

The Tournament Format
A total of 15 five-man teams (75 participants, plus a handful of additional golfers competing on an individual basis, including Notre Dame sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo) will be taking part in the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four scores in the five-man lineup for each round counting toward the team total. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis do not count to the team score.

The Teams
Besides Notre Dame and tournament host North Florida, the remaining teams in the 15-team field for the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational are: Alabama, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Florida, Georgia State, Indiana, Pepperdine, South Carolina, Tennessee, UAB, UCF, UCLA and Vanderbilt.

According to the Nov. 7 edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll (the final one of the fall 2007 season), no less than eight ranked teams will be competing in this week’s tournament, including four top-10 squads (No. 2 Charlotte, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 UCLA and No. 10 Florida). No. 15 South Carolina, No. 18 Pepperdine, No. 22 Indiana and No. 23 Tennessee also are in the field, with three other participating teams garnering votes — UCF (52 votes; 26th place), Coastal Carolina (26 votes; 29th place) and UAB (one vote; tie-50th place).

Meanwhile, Monday’s latest ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that 10 of the top 50 Division I teams will be on hand for the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational. Leading the way is second-ranked Alabama, followed closely by No. 3 Charlotte, No. 5 UCLA, No. 9 Florida and No. 10 Tennessee. Next up are 19th-ranked Indiana, No. 20 South Carolina, and No. 24 UCF, with Pepperdine (27th) and UAB (31st) also appearing on the first page of the rankings.

In addition, Wednesday’s new Golfstat rankings indicate 10 of this week’s participants are appearing in that service’s Top 50. No. 2 Charlotte sets the bar, with No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 UCLA, No. 10 Florida, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 14 South Carolina, No. 20 Indiana and No. 21 UCF also on the top half of the leaderboard. Two other squads — No. 30 Pepperdine and No. 33 UAB — aren’t far off the pace.

Notre Dame has faced four of the other participants in this week’s John Hayt Collegiate Invitational. The Irish have an 0-4-2 (.167) record against the field — Indiana (0-1-1), North Florida (0-1-1), UCF (0-1) and Vanderbilt (0-1). For the season, the Irish are 34-27-4 (.554), with a 6-19-1 (.250) record against Top 50 clubs (1-11-1 vs. the Top 25).

The Course
The Sawgrass Oceanside Course (East-West) gained its reputation as the home of the PGA Tour’s Tournament Players Championship from 1977-81, when the course, along with the treacherous winds of Sawgrass, tested the greatest players of the game.

This par-72, 6,895- yard layout requires distance off the tee while putting a premium on accuracy. With water on 14 of the 18 holes, along with approaches into extremely well-bunkered greens, placement is of prime importance. In addition, the greens are shallow but wide, creating difficult hole locations.

Noting The John Hayt Collegiate Invitational

  • Notre Dame returns to the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational for the second consecutive season. The tournament, which was previously known as both Queen’s Harbour Intercollegiate and the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship, will be played for the 17th time this week.
  • In last year’s tournament, the Irish tied with Augusta State for 13th place at 56-over par 920 (311-314-295), while Alabama won the team title. Cole Isban was Notre Dame’s top individual finisher tying for 22nd place at nine-over par 225 (76-76-73). Among current Irish golfers, Eddie Peckels was the top finisher in a tie for 58th place at 17-over par 233 (78-81-74), while two players in this week’s lineup saw action last season — Doug Fortner and Josh Sandman tied for 69th place at 21-over par 237 (Fortner 80-81-76; Sandman 80-76-81).
  • Notre Dame has two Florida natives competing this week — freshman Tyler Hock (Ocala/Forest HS) and sophomore Carl Santos-Ocampo (Naples/Community School of Naples) — with Santos-Ocampo competing as an individual. Hock had five top-10 finishes in eight events on the Florida Junior Tour from 2005-07, and came on strong for the Irish late in the fall season, currently standing second on the team with a 73.20 stroke average. Meanwhile, Santos-Ocampo was a four-year team captain in Naples, and also was the 2002 Florida State Boys Junior Championship (ages 13-15). He has competed in six events since coming to Notre Dame last season, compiling a 76.00 career stroke average.

Last Time Out: UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship
Notre Dame wrapped up its 2007 fall season with a ninth-place finish at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship, which concluded Oct. 30 at the Forest Oaks Country Club (par 72/7,197 yards) in Greensboro, N.C. The Irish carded a three-round total of 14-over par 878 (292-295-291) and wound up 18 shots behind tournament champion Louisville. Notre Dame did gain some postseason capital at the tournament, defeating No. 25 (Golfweek) Arkansas by 10 shots and finishing a single stroke behind 11th-ranked Wake Forest in the 15-team event.

Junior Josh Sandman was in contention for medalist honors entering the final round, but an uncharacteristic 77 dropped him to a tie for 15th place at one-over par 217 (68-72-77). It marked just the third time in 13 rounds this year that the Greensboro native posted a score higher than 73, and only the second time his round didn’t count to the team score. Louisville’s Derek Fathauer was the tournament medalist at 10-under par 206.

Senior tri-captain Greg Rodgers tied for 25th place at four-over par 220 (75-73-72), while sophomore Doug Fortner took home a share of 29th place at five-over par 221 (74-74-73). Sophomore Kyle Willis finished in a 48th-place tie at nine-over par 225 (75-76-74), while freshman Tyler Hock tied for 63rd place at 12-over par 228 (76-80-72).

Young Guns
Notre Dame has gotten a significant boost from its underclassmen, with its two lowest scorers (and four of the top six) being either freshmen or sophomores. Sophomore Doug Fortner is setting the pace for the Irish so far this season with a 72.77 average and three top-20 finishes, followed by rookie Tyler Hock, who has a 73.20 stroke rate. Freshman Jeff Chen has seen action in one “B” event and once as an individual, amassing a 73.33 average that is third-best on the team, while sophomore Kyle Willis rounds out the six best stroke averages for Notre Dame with a 74.20 mark.

Captains Courageous
Notre Dame’s three seniors have been selected as team captains for the 2007-08 season. Mike King, Eddie Peckels and Greg Rodgers all are serving in that capacity for the first time in their careers.

The .500 Rule
According to a new rule passed by the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee, teams must finish their season with a winning head-to-head record (i.e. better than .500) against Division I opposition to be considered for a berth in postseason play. Notre Dame currently has a 34-27-4 (.554) record this season.

Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame has won six BIG EAST Conference titles in its 12-year league affiliation, stringing together three consecutive crowns from 1995-97 and again from 2004-06. The Irish also have made 33 NCAA postseason appearances in their history (most recently in 2006 with a trip to the NCAA East Regional), winning the 1944 national title and finishing second in 1937.
  • Notre Dame has taken its play to new levels in recent years, posting three of the top seven single-season stroke averages in school history since head coach Jim Kubinski took over as head coach in January 2005. The Irish also have carded nine of the top 12 tournament scores (54 holes) in program history during the Kubinski era, including a school-record 842 (-22) at the 2006 BIG EAST Championship.
  • Notre Dame’s impressive resurgence of late has been augmented by its play against nationally-ranked opponents. In fact, since Kubinski arrived under the Golden Dome, the Irish have defeated 14 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 14 top-five tournament finishes, including three event titles (most recently the ’06 BIG EAST Championship).
  • Kubinski himself was nominated for a place on the 2007 GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers List, after being placed into consideration by the Indiana Section of the PGA. Approximately 400-500 people are chosen annually from the 30,000 PGA professionals nationwide for a few select places on the GOLF Magazine list, whose membership includes such notables as Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Rick Smith.

Next Up: USC Collegiate Invitational (March 3-4)
Notre Dame heads to the West Coast in two weeks for the USC Collegiate Invitational, to be played at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, Calif. The Irish last played in USC’s tournament in 2004, and will face a strong field that also includes Tennessee, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington.

— ND —