Balderston off the tee (file photo)

Notre Dame Set To Compete In The 2005 General Jim Hackler Invitational

March 12, 2005

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Sunday-Monday, March 13-14, 2005
8 a.m. (ET) tee times both days
TPC of Myrtle Beach
(6,950 Yards, Par 72)
Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Irish Wrap Up Spring Break Trip In South Carolina
Notre Dame will complete its three-week stretch of tournaments in the southeastern United States when it travels to Murrells Inlet, S.C., for the General Jim Hackler Invitational, to be played at the TPC of Myrtle Beach. This weekend’s event should be the biggest test to date for the Irish, with four of the teams in the field appearing in the latest GCAA/Bridgestone Coaches’ Poll.

Despite a combination of tricky weather conditions, untimely injuries and a new head coach, Notre Dame has gotten off to a solid start this spring, earning a pair of top-five finishes, including a sudden-death playoff victory at the season-opening NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational in New Orleans. Last week, the Irish battled their way to a fourth-place tie at the inaugural Irish Spring Invitational in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., despite their second-highest 54-hole score of the year.

Quoting Coach Kubinski
“Scott (Gustafson) played really well at the Irish Spring Invitational. I’m excited for him and to get him back in the lineup because he brings a lot of tournament experience. Greg (Rodgers) also showed a heck of a lot out there last week. The weather was clearly a factor and it didn’t let us get going. It was just a day of survival and Greg did really well. I’m very pleased to have those guys back in the lineup.

“I’m still trying to get a feel for each guy every time they go out there. Cole (Isban) has been battling some adversity. He came into last week’s tournament still under doctor’s orders with bronchitis and then he suffered the eye injury, but he really gutted it out. The second round put us back a little but I was happy that we were able to pass Mississippi State and catch Penn State.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Sunday, with the opening round teeing off via a shotgun start at 8 a.m. (ET). The second round will also utilize the shotgun start format approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the first round. Competitors will then return Monday morning for the final round, which will begin at 8 a.m. (ET) with another shotgun start.

Tournament Updates/Results
No live scoring will be available for this tournament. However, complete results following each day’s action will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site ( In addition, all the latest information on the Irish is available on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000). Callers should select option #9, then press #2 for the latest information on the tournament, as well as any weather or scheduling delays.

The Tournament Format
A total of 12 five-man teams (60 participants, with the possibility of some teams fielding additional golfers on an individual basis) will be participating in the General Jim Hackler Invitational. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four scores in the five-man lineup in each round counting toward the team total. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis do not count to the team total.

The Teams
This year’s General Jim Hackler Invitational features a 12-team field that includes the following squads: UCF (Central Florida), Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Furman, Kansas State, Louisville, North Florida, Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Purdue, UNC Wilmington and Virginia Tech.

Illustrating the strength of this weekend’s tournament, four teams in the field are receiving votes in the latest Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA)/Bridgestone Coaches’ Poll (as of March 11). UCF leads the way with 17 points (good for 29th place if the poll were extended), followed closely by Pepperdine with 14 points (30th place). East Tennessee State is next with 11 points (tied with North Carolina for 32nd place), while Purdue also is appearing in the poll with three points (39th place).

In the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings (as of March 7), six squads in this year’s field are appearing in Golfweek/Sagarin top 50. Purdue sets the pace at No. 29, with East Tennessee State (No. 31) and Pepperdine (No. 33) hot on the Boilermakers’ heels. No. 37 Louisville and No. 38 UCF, along with 48th-ranked Coastal Carolina also are showing up on the first page of the Sagarin ratings. By comparison, Notre Dame is checking in at No. 62 in this week’s index.

This season, Notre Dame has posted a 4-3-1 record against the field at the General Jim Hackler Invitational. The Irish are 1-0 against Furman (Windon Memorial Classic), Pepperdine (The Prestige at PGA WEST) and UNC Wilmington (sudden death playoff win at NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational) and have split two matchups with Kansas State (win at Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational; loss at The Nelson Invitational), as well as drawn with UCF (Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational). The other Notre Dame losses came at the hands of North Florida and Purdue, both in the Windon Memorial Classic.

The Course
This week’s General Jim Hackler Invitational will be played at the TPC of Myrtle Beach (par 72/6,950 yards) in Murrells Inlet, S.C. Though not particularly long, this Tom Fazio-designed layout utilizes the surrounding wetlands, as well as numerous tall pines to create a difficult track that puts a premium on shotmaking ability. Some of the other notable features of the course include elevated tees, sloping fairways and free-form bunkers, all of which have led Golf Digest and Golf Magazine to label the TPC of Myrtle Beach as one of the top public courses in the country.

Irish Lineup
After spending much of its off season practicing indoors during the cold winter months in South Bend, Notre Dame has had plenty of time to refine its play outdoors during the past three weeks, as it has opened with tournaments in Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina. The Irish also have had their conditioning tested with its three consecutive weekend tournaments, as well as by the ever-changing weather conditions native to the Southeast this time of year.

Sophomore Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind.) remains one of the anchors in the Notre Dame lineup this year, having started all seven tournaments to date. He holds a team-best 73.81 stroke average this year and has placed in the top-five in three events, peaking with a runner-up finish at The Prestige at PGA WEST in early November. Last week, he battled through a minor eye injury to place 19th at the Irish Spring Invitational (229, +13).

Junior Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) makes his first appearance in the starting lineup this weekend, following an impressive ninth-place tie at last week’s Irish Spring Invitational (225, +9) as an individual. Gustafson still is recovering from injuries suffered in an automobile accident during the fall, but he appears to be rounding back into the form that has made him one of the top threats in the Notre Dame lineup the past two years. He leads all Irish players with a 75.00 stroke average this spring, and has a 76.60 overall mark this year.

Freshman Greg Rodgers (Phoenix, Md.) has shown the greatest potential of any of the Notre Dame rookies this year, starting six tournaments in his first year under the Golden Dome. Rodgers was the top scoring Irish player at last weekend’s Irish Spring Invitational with a 228 (+12), good for a 14th-place tie, the best of his young career. Rodgers has a 75.50 stroke average this season.

Junior Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H.) quietly has emerged as one of the most consistent players on the Notre Dame roster this year. Baldwin registered his third consecutive top-20 finish last weekend at the Irish Spring Invitational with a tie for 20th (230, +14). Currently, he owns a career-low 75.33 stroke average, which is fourth-best on the team this year.

Like Gustafson, sophomore Shane Sigsbee (McKinney, Texas) earns his first start of the spring after a 34th-place tie at the Irish Spring Invitational (237, +21) as an individual. Sigsbee has seen action in four events this year, three as an individual, and ranks third on the team with a 75.08 stroke average. He also has two top-five finishes, including a tie for second as an individual during last fall’s Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational.

Last Tournament – Irish Spring Invitational
Notre Dame placed in a tie for fourth with Penn State at the Irish Spring Invitational with a 919 (+55) as they were part of the 13-team field that battled the elements, which resulted in high scores throughout the final day at the par-72, 6,901-yard El Campeon Golf Course in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. Wichita State captured the team title by four strokes over Colorado State with an 885 (+21). Junior Scott Gustafson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) fired a Notre Dame-best score of nine-over par 225 (78-73-74) to tie for ninth place as an individual entrant.

The Irish opened up play on Monday with a solid five-over par 293 in the first round to place third before shooting a 307 in the afternoon and winding up in sixth at the end of the first day. Notre Dame passed Mississippi State and squared up with Penn State during Tuesday’s final round as the Fighting Irish posted a 31-over par 319. One of the bright spots was freshman Greg Rodgers (Phoenix, Md.) as he led the charge for Notre Dame during the tournament with a 228 (76-75-77), including a scoring team-best five-over par 77 on Tuesday. Sophomore Cole Isban (South Bend, Ind.), who suffered an eye injury during play on Tuesday, shot an 81 for the final round to finish in 19th with a 229 (72-76-81). Junior Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H.) was one shot back of his teammate, Isban, after 54 holes of play as he fired a 230 (74-76-80) to place tied for 20th overall.

In a return to his home state, sophomore Tommy Balderston (Boca Raton, Fla.) carded the best round of the tournament for the Irish on Monday with a one-under par 71 before turning in rounds of 80 and 86 to finish with a 237 and in a tie for 34th place. Junior Eric Deutsch (Rochester, Minn.) had a difficult outing throughout the event, posting a 244 (83-80-81) to finish tied for 56th.

Notre Dame sent five players out as individual entrants in the tournament. Gustafson carded the top round for any Irish golfer on Tuesday with two-over par 74, while sophomore Shane Sigsbee (McKinney, Texas) posted an 84 to finish with a 237 (79-74-84) for the tournament. Senior K.C. Wiseman (South Bend, Ind.) rolled up an 83 on the day to go with a pair of 79’s that he fired on Monday for a 241 total. Freshmen Eddie Peckels (Pinehurst, N.C.) and Mike King (Sidney, Ohio) rounded out the field for the Irish with totals of 244 (77-83-84) and 247 (79-78-90), respectively.

The Sandman Cometh
Notre Dame announced Dec. 16 that Josh Sandman (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford HS), has chosen to continue his career with the Irish, signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2005. Sandman is the first player to commit to the Irish for the 2005-06 season.

A standout on the junior golf circuit, Sandman is ranked as the 32nd-best player in the graduating class of 2005, according to the Titleist/Golfweek rankings released in mid-December. The 6-foot-1 Sandman owns a national junior scoring average of 72.69 in 23 rounds and has four top-three finishes to his credit in the last calendar year. His best efforts include a tie for second place at the 2003-04 North Carolina State High School Championships, a tie for third place at the 2004 Golfweek Invitational and a third-place showing at the 2004 Carolina Golf Association Junior Championships. He also works regularly under the watchful eye of Greensboro-area instructor Kelly Phillips.

Sandman is the son of Michael and Dawn Sandman of Greensboro, and he has three brothers (ages 21, 19 and 13).

Getting Off On The Right Foot
The Irish have posted their best team scores during the first round of tournament play this year, carding a 298.29 over the opening 18 holes. Among those leading the charge in the first round are the two sophomores in this week’s lineup – Cole Isban (73.14) and Shane Sigsbee (74.25).

Next For The Irish
Notre Dame goes on a nearly three-week hiatus before returning to the links April 2-3 for the Augusta State (Ga.) Invitational at Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The Irish will be playing in that event for the second consecutive year, having tied for 14th place in an 18-team field in 2004. This year’s event should be just as challenging, led by the host school, which is ranked 16th in the latest GCAA/Bridgestone Coaches’ Poll.