March 1, 2005
NEW ORLEANS – Thirteen years after Lou Holtz guided the Notre Dame football team to a victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, another Irish squad invaded the Big Easy and walked away with championship hardware.
The Notre Dame men’s golf team battled through numerous adversities to win 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) on a treacherous course that is home the PGA Tour’s Compaq Classic and has been termed “one of the top 10 courses on the PGA Tour” by golf legend Greg Norman.
The tournament title, Notre Dame’s first since the 2004 BIG EAST Conference Championship and third in the past 16 months, also put an emphatic stamp on the debut of new Irish head coach Jim Kubinski. A former assistant men’s and women’s golf coach at Duke, Kubinski arrived in South Bend in early February and has had less than a month to work with his new charges. In addition to dealing with a tough course and a new coach, Notre Dame fought through extremely windy conditions (25-30 mph gusts on Monday) and a limited amount of outdoor practice time, as opposed to many of the Southern-based schools in the tournament field.
“I’m just so proud of these guys for the way they competed this weekend,” Kubinski said. “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.”
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 Notre Dame was two shots in the red on the extra hole. 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.
“This was definitely the most exciting playoff I’ve ever seen, let alone be a part of as a coach,” Kubinski said. “Our guys hit some unbelievable shots in sudden death and really rose to the challenge.”
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 (he had a career-low 67 as an individual competitor at the John Dallio Memorial Invitational back in September). Deutsch completed the Irish scoring with a tie for 52nd place at 19-over par 235 (83-76-76).
Notre Dame returns to action March 7-8 when it plays host to the Irish Spring Invitational in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., on the El Campeon Course at the Mission Inn Resort. It is the second of four tournaments the Irish will host this season, but the only event that will take place away from the Notre Dame campus.
— ND —
NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational
English Turn Golf & Country Club – New Orleans, La.
Par 72 – 7,078 yards
Tuesday, March 1 – Final 54-hole scores
TEAM LEADERS: 1. (tie) *NOTRE DAME 893 (305-293-295) and UNC Wilmington 893 (296-303-294); 3. (tie) Southern Mississippi 895 (306-295-294) and South Alabama 895 (304-299-292); 5. (tie) Mississippi 897 (305-295-297) and Tulsa 897 (297-304-296); 7. Tulane 900 (307-296-297); 8. Middle Tennessee 906 (307-298-301); 9. Southeastern Louisiana 907 (303-299-305); 10. New Orleans 908 (308-302-298); 11. West Florida 920 (307-301-312); 12. Jacksonville State 921 (312-312-297); 13. Louisiana-Lafayette 922 (314-306-302); 14. Tulane B 945 (314-317-314).
* – won on first hole of sudden death playoff
TOP FOUR INDIVIDUALS PLUS NOTRE DAME PLAYERS (of 75): 1. Michael Thompson (Tulane) 214 (75-71-68); 2. (tie) Jordan Dempsey (Mississippi) 216 (73-75-68) and Johnny Caldwell (South Alabama) 216 (73-71-72); 4. Justin Elliott (Southern Mississippi) 217 (74-75-68); 5. (tie) Cole Isban (Notre Dame) 221 (73-71-77); 12. (tie) Mark Baldwin (Notre Dame) 222 (78-72-72); 19. (tie) Tommy Balderston (Notre Dame) 226 (78-77-71) and Eddie Peckels (Notre Dame) 226 (76-74-76); 52. (tie) Eric Deutsch (Notre Dame) 235 (83-76-76).