Cole Isban became the first three-time all-region golfer in school history when he collected his third honor on Wednesday from the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA). <i>(photo by Todd Drexler/Sideline Sports)</i>

Irish To Face Stern Test At Augusta State Invitational

March 29, 2007

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Administaff Augusta State Invitational
Friday-Sunday, March 30-April 1, 2007
8 a.m. (ET) all three days
Champions Retreat Golf Club
Evans, Ga.
Par 72/7,265 yards

Irish To Face Stern Test At Augusta State Invitational
Riding its best stretch of golf this season, Notre Dame will look to keep building momentum for the postseason when it takes part in the Administaff Augusta State Invitational Friday through Sunday at the Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans, Ga. Ten of the nation’s top 50 squads will be in action this weekend, while the Irish should be quite familiar with their surroundings in their fourth consecutive appearance at the event (their best finish was seventh in 2005).

In its last outing, Notre Dame finished sixth at the Border Olympics in Laredo, Texas, on March 16-17. The Irish shot a one-over par 865, tying the sixth-lowest score in team history, and were led by senior All-America candidate Cole Isban, who tied the 54-hole school record at 209 (-7). At No. 55, Isban will be one of 19 players in the field at this weekend’s Administaff Augusta State Invitational who is ranked among the top 100 in the nation.

Quoting Coach Kubinski
“We’re very, very excited about our yearly trip to Augusta. Nothing signals the true beginning of golf season like The Masters, and since ASU’s event immediately precedes The Masters, there’s obviously a lot of excitement in town.

“While we’re not playing Augusta National this week, Champions Retreat is a fantastic test of golf. It served as host to the event last year for the first time and is worthy of hosting NCAA Championship competition in the future. It has length, great green complexes and a good mix of rolling terrain and water hazards to test our iron play.

“With such a strong field, we’ll need to play well from the start. I feel we are getting better with each event. After our runner-up in San Diego, we had the lead in Texas through 27 holes at 16-under. While we played one bad nine-hole stretch in that second round, we’re starting to show the signs of what I’ve believed all along. We were a young team at the start in terms of experience within the lineup, so with each event, we’ve grown.

“We’ve needed guys to step up and help Cole (Isban) and Josh (Sandman). Doug (Fortner) has done a solid job this spring, and other than one nine-hole stretch over the 108-hole Spring Break trip, Doug had an aggregrate score under par. Giff (Adam Gifford) fired his career low of 69 out in San Diego and has played several very good rounds of late.

“The goal has always been in sight. Our patience and belief in what we can accomplish has not changed. Augusta will be an interesting check point for us. We’re excited about where we can go from this point on.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play a single round (18 holes) on each day of the tournament. Friday’s opening-round tee times have been pre-assigned, with Notre Dame golfers paired with players from North Florida and South Carolina-Aiken – those groups will start going off at 10:15 a.m. (ET) from the first tee on the Bluffs (Nicklaus) Course, and continuing at nine-minute intervals. Tee times for the remaining two rounds will be determined by the team standings after the previous day’s play, with the first teams starting at 8 a.m. (ET) both days. Saturday’s second round will start on the No. 1 tee of the Island (Palmer) Course, while the final round on Sunday will offer a split-tee start from the first holes on both the Bluffs and Island nines. All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.

Following The Irish
Live in-progress scoring from the Administaff Augusta State Invitational is available through the Golfstat web site ( In addition, complete results following each day’s action 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).

New this year is the Irish ALERT system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame’s progress at the Administaff Augusta State Invitational through text messages sent right to their cell phone. For more information or to register for this free service, visit the official Notre Dame athletics web site (

The Tournament Format
A total of 18 five-man teams (90 participants, plus the possibility of some additional golfers competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the Administaff Augusta State 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 Augusta State, the remaining teams in the field for the Administaff Augusta State Invitational are: Auburn, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Houston, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida, South Carolina, South Carolina-Aiken, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

According to the latest edition of the Golf World/Nike Top 25 coaches poll (released March 14), six teams appearing in that survey will be competing in this weekend’s tournament. No. 6 Clemson heads the list, followed by 11th-ranked Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State and North Carolina (tied for 13th), No. 17 Tennessee and 22nd-ranked Georgia State. In addition, three other participating squads are receiving votes in the latest coaches’ balloting – Minnesota (33 votes, 27th), Auburn (32 votes, 28th) and Notre Dame (six votes, 32nd) – while South Carolina-Aiken presently is ranked 10th in the Division II poll.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s updated ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that 10 of the top 50 teams will be on hand for the Administaff Augusta State Invitational. On top is No. 10 Clemson, followed closely by No. 11 Coastal Carolina, No. 13 East Tennessee State, No. 15 Tennessee and No. 17 North Carolina. Also on the first page of the latest Golfweek ratings are: No. 21 Auburn, No. 28 Minnesota, No. 29 Georgia State, No. 41 South Carolina and No. 47 Virginia Tech. The host school, Augusta State (51st) and Notre Dame (54th) are just outside the current Golfweek Top 50.

In addition, the most recent Golfstat rankings (unveiled Wednesday) indicate 10 of this week’s participants appearing in that service’s Top 50. No. 8 Clemson sets the bar, with No. 11 Coastal Carolina, No. 13 East Tennessee State, No. 15 Tennessee, No. 17 North Carolina, No. 20 Georgia State and No. 25 Auburn appearing in the upper division. No. 31 Minnesota, No. 42 Augusta State and No. 43 South Carolina rounding out the top 50 teams in the field (USC-Aiken is sixth in Division II).

Notre Dame has faced 12 of the other 17 schools competing in the Administaff Augusta State Invitational this season, amassing a combined 4-12-1 (.265) record against those clubs. The Irish record vs. the field breaks down this way: Augusta State (1-1-1), Clemson (0-1), Coastal Carolina (0-2), Georgia Southern (1-0), Georgia State (0-1), Houston (0-1), Minnesota (0-2), North Florida (0-1), South Carolina (1-1), Tennessee (0-1), Virginia (1-0) and Virginia Tech (0-1).

The Course
Following a successful 27-year run at Forest Hills Golf Club, the Administaff Augusta State Invitational relocated in 2006 to the Champions Retreat Golf Club (par 72/7,265 yards) in Evans, Ga. The 27-hole layout opened in 2005 and features three distinct nine-hole courses designed by the masters of the game – Jack Nicklaus (Bluffs Nine), Arnold Palmer (Island Nine) and Gary Player (Creek Nine).

This weekend’s tournament will utilize the Nicklaus Bluffs Nine (par 36/3,660 yards) and the Palmer Island Nine (par 36/3,605 yards). The Nicklaus layout fits nicely into the rolling Georgia terrain, offering a variety of elevations and doglegs. Meanwhile, the Palmer course plays onto a 280-acre island bordered by the Savannah River and Little River and the challenging tree-lined fairways provide a distinctly southern feel to the players.

Last Time Out: Border Olympics
Throughout his storied four-year career, Cole Isban has etched his name all over the Irish men’s golf record books. Thus, it was only appropriate that on St. Patrick’s Day, the senior All-America candidate did something only one other golfer has accomplished in the 78-year history of the program.

Competing in the 56th annual Border Olympics at the par-72, 7,241-yard Laredo (Texas) Country Club, Isban carded a seven-under par 209 (70-68-71) to tie Jeff Connell’s 54-hole school record and set a new Irish standard for the lowest tournament score with relation to par. Connell registered a 209 (-4) at the 1998 Marshall Invitational in Huntington, W.Va. (played on a par-71 course), while four different Notre Dame golfers have posted six-under par scores a total of five times (most recently by Mark Baldwin at the 2006 Lexus Naples Intercollegiate in Naples, Fla.). Isban also came away with his second top-five finish of the year and eighth of his career.

As a team, the Irish held steady in the final round, remaining in sixth place with a three-round total of one-over par 865 (284-294-287), which also matches the sixth-lowest 54-hole team score in school history. In fact, during its two Spring Break tournaments in the past week, Notre Dame logged two of the six lowest team scores in program annals – the Irish also fired an 863 in the Triumph at Pauma Valley.

Sophomore Josh Sandman capped off his best outing of the spring, tying for 21st place at even-par 216 (71-73-72). Senior co-captain Adam Gifford shared 45th place at six-over par 222 (70-79-73), while junior Eddie Peckels and freshman Doug Fortner tied for 54th place at eight-over par 224 – Peckels shot rounds of 73, 74 and 77, while Fortner carded scores of 73, 80 and 71.

Three Tournaments, Three Aces For Irish
It would be difficult to script a much better start than Notre Dame freshmen Doug Fortner and Carl Santos-Ocampo experienced last fall. Between them, the two Irish rookies fired three aces in their first three tournaments, including matching holes-in-one in their respective college debuts 10 days apart.

Fortner was the first to card a “single” on Sept. 16 in the second round of the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn., pulling out a pitching wedge and sinking his tee shot on the par-3, 139-yard 17th hole at the Spring Hill Golf Club. Not to be outdone, Santos-Ocampo made his mark in the final round of the John Dallio Memorial (a “B” team event for the Irish) in West Chicago, Ill., using a 7-iron to bury his tee shot on the par-3, 175-yard third hole at the Prairie Landing Golf Club.

Santos-Ocampo was at it again on Oct. 10 in the final round of the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. Playing into a stiff breeze, the diminutive Notre Dame freshman took an 8-iron to the tee of the par-3, fourth hole at the Warren Golf Course and promptly buried his 136-yard tee shot.

Both Fortner and Santos-Ocampo were featured in the Oct. 30 edition of Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” for their accomplishment, which is believed to be the first of its kind in NCAA Division I history.

Other Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame is the three-time defending BIG EAST Conference champion (and three-time NCAA regional qualifier), winning the 2006 BIG EAST title with a dramatic 12-stroke comeback (second-largest in school and league history) in the final round to defeat Louisville on the first playoff hole. The Irish joined St. John’s as the only programs in the 26-year history of the BIG EAST Championship to win three consecutive titles on two separate occasions. The Irish recorded their first hat trick from 1995-97, while St. John’s posted a pair of “four-peats” from 1981-84 and 1986-89.
  • Senior Cole Isban is a prime candidate to become Notre Dame’s first All-American since 1980 (John Lundgren – honorable mention), coming off consecutive selections to the PING All-Midwest Region Team. Isban owns the school’s single-season and career stroke average (see chart on page 3), has qualified for the last three U.S. Amateur Championships, and is ranked 55th in the latest Golfweek individual rankings (as of Tuesday).

Next Up: Boilermaker Invitational (April 7-8)
Notre Dame returns to the Midwest April 7-8 for the Boilermaker Invitational, hosted by Purdue at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex (Kampen Course) in West Lafayette, Ind. The Irish finished third at the event last year behind matching second-place finishes by Cole Isban and Josh Sandman.