Feb. 13, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a 10-part series on UND.com, spotlighting the 2010 Notre Dame spring sports season with both written and video previews. Today, we take a look at the Notre Dame men’s golf team, which looks to return to the top of the BIG EAST Conference for the first time since 2006.
The Fighting Irish men’s golf team will open the spring portion of their schedule at the 2010 Battle at the Beach at the Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast, Calif. The three-day event will be contested on Feb. 14, 15 and 16 with Long Beach State and UCLA serving as co-hosts.
All told, The Battle at the Beach will involve 14 teams. In addition to the Irish and the host institutions of UCLA and Long Beach State; Arizona State, Arkansas, Colorado, Colorado State, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, Tennessee, Texas, Texas-San Antonio, UC Davis and Washington will play for the inaugural Battle at the Beach title.
“The event itself is brand new and includes several highly ranked teams,” said Irish head coach Jim Kubinski. “It’s certainly a great opportunity to use as a measuring stick. We have several great events to play in between now and the NCAA Championship in June but we’d like to see where our strengths lay and where we can make improvements.”
Aside from featuring six top-20 ranked teams according to Golfstat, The Battle at the Beach will also utilize a unique scoring system that mirrors the Pac-10 Championship. Five of each team’s six scores will be counted towards team scoring at the conclusion each round, not the traditional four of five scores.
“We haven’t visited Pelican Hill before but, from what I can tell, it’s not the longest course we’ll play,” commented Kubinski. “Rather, it requires smart club selection, good iron play and a sound game plan. I trust we’ll put together an effective strategy and execute it.”
The six players who will be charged with executing that game plan will be seniors Josh Sandman (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) and Doug Fortner (Tustin, Calif./Foothill), junior Jeff Chen (Walnut, Calif./Los Altos), as well as sophomores Chris Walker (The Woodlands, Texas), Max Scodro (Chicago, Ill./Notre Dame Prep) and Tom Usher (Bradford, England/Guiseley School).
“Our lineup is one I’m excited about, we’ll be playing two captains in Josh and Doug, who have over 70 college starts between them,” said Kubinski. “We’ll also have one of our scoring leaders over the last 18 months or so in Jeff Chen. Rounding out the lineup are three sophomores, all of whom showed how bright their futures are in competing at a very high level to close out the fall. Their play at Pine Needles was more representative of experienced seniors than first semester sophomores. I’m looking forward to watching them break out this spring.”
The Irish, who carry a Golfstat ranking of 69th (2/10/10), had the added benefit of preparing for the Battle at the Beach by playing in an Alumni Match weekend at the Mirabel Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. last weekend. Senior Carl Santos Ocampo (Naples, Fla./Community School) led all scorers with a 69 on Saturday. Usher led the Irish golfers with a 68 on Sunday, finishing his round with four consecutive birdies — including a 15-footer on the 472-yard, par-four 18th to cap off the round.
The Irish concluded the fall season with a 36-34 head-to-head record after finishing second at The Match Play. With wins over Georgetown and Connecticut, Notre Dame advanced to the championship of The Match Play at the Pine Needles Golf Course in Southern Pines, N.C only to be outlasted by Louisville for the title, 3.5 to 2.5, to close out their fall slate.
Fifth-year senior Josh Sandman helped Notre Dame take the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic back in October, winning medalist honors at 212 (+2).
Notre Dame’s fall campaign was highlighted with a home win at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. The Irish were able to end the 54-hole tournament at +30 (870) to hold off the second place Ohio State Buckeyes (+34/874). The win took the Irish to the podium for the first time since the team captured the 2005-06 BIG EAST Conference championship.
Notre Dame was able to earn a medal sweep at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, as Sandman (+2/212) defeated Kevin Hesbois of Lamar (+4/214) to claim individual medalist honors. The win for Sandman marked the first of his Notre Dame career, besting his previous top result, which was a second-place tie at the 2005-06 Boilermaker Invitational (+4/220). It also marked the first individual title an Irish golfer since Scodro earned a tie for first at the 2008-09 UNCG Bridgestone Championship. For his efforts, Sandman was named the BIG EAST Golfer of the Month on Oct. 10 after he recorded a 71.00 stroke average in his first three tournaments of the season. He also fired a 66 (six-under par) in the second round of the Gopher Invitational, his lowest round with the Irish and the third lowest round in program history.
Sandman was not the only Irish golfer to post a strong start out of the blocks as the team earned top-six finishes in its first three events of the season for the first time since 2005. Fortner earned a seventh-place finish at the Mason Rudolph Championship after finishing at minus four, which was aided by his opening round 67. Scodro also earned a top-10 finish in the fall as he tied for 10th at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. As a team, the Irish opened with a sixth-place finish at the Gopher Invitational and followed with a fifth-place showing at the Mason Rudolph Championship and a win at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic.
Notre Dame will look to get on a similar roll as they approach the championship portion of their schedule. Not only are the Irish working towards capturing the 2010 BIG EAST title, but they also have their sights set on a return to the NCAA Regional, one of which will be contested at the Warren Golf Course – Notre Dame’s home course and the scene of their recent Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic success.
Check back with UND.com for round-by-round recaps of Notre Dame’s performance at the Battle at the Beach. Live scoring of the tournament will also be available through www.golfstat.com via the website’s Live Scoring link.
— ND —