May 19, 2006
ORLANDO – In sports, as in life, timing is everything. For a Notre Dame men’s golf team in the midst of the NCAA East Regional, the timing couldn’t have been worse for the Irish to shoot their largest 18- and 36-hole scores of the season. Notre Dame’s second-round 308 (+20) on Friday and two-round total of 608 (+32) dropped the Irish to 18th place in the 27-team regional field with only one round to play at the tricky Lake Nona Golf & Country Club (par 72/7,179 yards) in Orlando.
The top 10 teams in this weekend’s regional will advance to the NCAA Championships, to be held May 31-June 3 in Sunriver, Ore., on the Crosswater Course at Sunriver Resort. Currently, USC and UCLA share the final two NCAA qualification spots in the East Regional at 16-over par 592, while top-ranked Georgia continues to maintain the overall regional lead at 578 (+2). The top two individuals not on one of the 10 advancing teams also will receive berths in the NCAA Championships, with Tennessee Tech’s Scott Stallings (144) and Rhode Island’s Jason Pannone (145) presently holding down those solo spots.
Prior to Friday’s disastrous second round, the Irish had carded only five of 34 rounds this season at 300 or worse, and their highest 36-hole score of the season had been a 607 at the Boilermaker Invitational on April 8-9 (a tournament in which Notre Dame eventually rallied to finish third). However, the Irish started Friday’s action on Lake Nona’s back nine, which has proven to be the much harder half of the course, and for the second consecutive day, Notre Dame surrendered the majority of its strokes in that nine-hole span. Combined through the first two rounds, the Irish have played Lake Nona’s 10th-18th holes in 25-over par, while covering the more palatable front side in seven-over par.
Senior tri-captain Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie) continues to be Notre Dame’s top individual scorer, residing in a tie for 39th place at five-over par 149 (72-77), which matches the fifth-lowest two-round NCAA postseason score in school history. Following a solid opening round that had him among the top 15 in the 141-man field, Gustafson stumbled a bit on Friday with four bogeys and a double bogey at the 14th hole, dropping him back in the pack.
Freshman Josh Sandman (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) rode the roller coaster of emotions throughout the second round, landing in a tie for 71st place at eight-over par 152 (75-77). Sandman opened with a bogey, but came back with two birdies and was one-under through his first six holes. Then, a triple bogey on the 16th, followed by a double bogey on the 17th put him on the defensive. Yet, the Irish rookie rebounded with a pair of birdies on the second and third holes (his 11th and 12th of the day) to get back on the right track, before playing his next five holes in four-over par sealed his fate.
Senior tri-captain Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H./New Hampton Prep) is tied for 85th place at 10-over par 154 (75-79). Senior Tommy Balderston (Boca Raton, Fla./St. Andrews) is one stroke behind his classmate in a 90th-place tie at 11-over par 155 (78-77), while junior tri-captain Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian) closes out the Irish scoring in a tie for 99th place at 12-over par 156 (79-77).
Notre Dame will be paired with Tennessee and Indiana for Saturday’s third and final round, with Isban the first to tee off at 12:12 p.m. (ET) from the No. 1 tee at Lake Nona. Regular in-progress updates will be filed live from the course on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000; option #9), while scores will be updated every three holes on the Golfstat web site. A final recap will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com) upon completion of the day’s action.
— ND —