Junior Doug Fortner finished one shot off the school record, firing a six-under par 210 to tie for second place at the 2009 BIG EAST Conference Championship, which wrapped up Tuesday at the Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City, Fla.

Notre Dame Welcomes Strong Field For Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic

Oct. 4, 2008

Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic
Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 6-7, 2008
8:45 a.m. (ET) Monday/8:20 a.m. (ET) Tuesday
Warren Golf Course
Notre Dame, Ind.
Par 70/7,023 yards

Notre Dame Welcomes Strong Field For Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic
In what is quickly becoming a regular stop on the college golf circuit, Notre Dame is preparing to play host to the third annual Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic on Monday and Tuesday (Oct. 6-7) at the Warren Golf Course (par 70/7,023 yards) on the Notre Dame campus. The unique event, which actually gets underway Saturday as the competing teams enjoy the Notre Dame-Stanford football game at Notre Dame Stadium, will have an expanded 16-team field this year and features five of the top 50 teams in the country (including top-five squads Lamar and Arkansas), according to the latest Golfweek rankings.

Fresh off a top-10 finish (212, -1) in last week’s Saint Mary’s Invitational out in Pebble Beach, Calif., junior all-BIG EAST Conference selection (and Tustin, Calif., native) Doug Fortner (73.00 season stroke average) will lead off the Notre Dame lineup once again. Three sophomores — Jeff Chen (73.33), Dustin Zhang (74.33) and Connor Alan-Lee (74.50) — will follow Fortner in the lineup, with long-driving freshman Max Scodro (72.33) round out the starting five. Chen and Alan-Lee are coming off career-low tournament scores at Pebble Beach (Chen tied for 23rd place), while Scodro has shown good focus and determination through two tournaments, tying for 30th last week. Meanwhile, Zhang will make his 2008 travel squad debut after tying for 26th as an individual participant at the John Dallio Memorial on Sept. 21-22.

Notre Dame also will field a “B” team at this week’s tournament, with junior Carl Santos-Ocampo (77.00) leading off the second unit, ahead of classmate and team co-captain Olavo Batista (78.33). Sophomore Tyler Hock (73.83) will lend some added veteran experience to this squad, which also includes freshmen Chris Walker (76.33) and Tom Usher (74.00). In addition, junior Kyle Willis will make his 2008-09 debut this week, playing as an individual competitor.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“We’re excited to be back home and hosting so many great teams this week. We’ve shown improvement in each of our two events thus far and we’re looking to continue that trend.

“We’ll go with junior Doug Fortner at the top, who gave us an outstanding effort at Poppy Hills last week and is really becoming a top player nationally. We’ll again send three sophomores into the battle this week with one, Dustin Zhang, making his debut in this year’s starting lineup. Dustin showed a lot closing out last season, with consecutive strong events in Tucson, at home and then at the BIG EAST Championship. He’s a very, very talented young player. With fellow sophs Connor Alan-Lee and Jeff Chen, I expect a strong effort from that class this week.

“Jeff, in particular, has played incredibly well this season after not making our starting lineup as a freshman. I’m as proud of the way he handled himself when he didn’t get the call (last year) as I have been with his recent solid play. It’s a credit to him and a great example for young players waiting to break in.

“Speaking of young players, frosh Max Scodro really gave us a nice lift at Poppy Hills. He played some great stretches, posted two very good scores and hit the shot of the tournament in nearly making double-eagle on the par-5 18th. The big thing that really stood out though was his composure after starting round two with a quadruple bogey on his very first hole, following that with an early double bogey and yet posting a 76, when many young players would have folded. We’ll cure those `others’ without worry and be left with a guy who has already proven his tournament toughness.

“We have a nice pairing with two quality programs in Virginia and Minnesota. It should be a good indicator of where our young squad stands. We’ll be motivated to defend our home course, without question. We’re also looking to make Irish Nation proud of a solid effort. We need to play smart golf out there, maybe beyond our experience level at this point. We can do it, though. If we play intelligently and allow our talent to come out, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the mix on Tuesday afternoon.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Monday, beginning with a shotgun start for round one at 8:45 a.m. (ET) and featuring continuous play into the second round. Notre Dame golfers are paired with those from Minnesota and Virginia, with those groups slated to off from holes 1-3. In addition, the Irish “B” team that will be competing this week is scheduled to start on the 17th and 18th holes. Tuesday’s final round will be a split-tee start based upon the 36-hole standings, with teams going off from the first and 10th tees beginning at 8:20 a.m. (ET). All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.

Following The Irish
Live scoring is available for the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic via the Golfstat web site (www.golfstat.com). In addition, complete results following each day’s action will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com). The latest information from the tournament, including results, scheduling updates and weather delays, also will be provided on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000). Furthermore, results also will be available via the Irish ALERT text-message system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame’s progress at the Saint Mary’s Invitational through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information, visit UND.com.

The Tournament Format
A total of 16 five-man teams (80 participants, plus two additional golfers competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. 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 tournament host Notre Dame (and its “B” team) , the remaining teams in the 16-team field for the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic are: Arkansas, UC Davis, DePaul, Iowa, Lamar, Michigan State, Minnesota, UNC Greensboro, North Florida, San Diego, San Francisco, Southeastern Louisiana, Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth. It should be noted that Georgetown originally was scheduled to compete in this week’s tournament, but following a recent outbreak of norovirus on the Georgetown campus, the Hoyas were forced to withdraw.

According to the current edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll, a handful of teams in this week’s tournament are receiving votes. Lamar earned 54 votes (27th if the poll were extended), Arkansas has 41 votes (31st), UC Davis is picking up four votes (tie-53rd), Michigan State has three votes (tie-55th), and Minnesota and Virginia each garnered two votes (tie-57th).

Meanwhile, this week’s ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that five of the top 50 teams will be on hand for the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. Leading the way are top-five squads Lamar (No. 3) and Arkansas (No. 4), followed by Michigan State (41st), Minnesota (47th) and Virginia Commonwealth (49th). Two other participating teams are knocking on the door of the Top 50 in UC Davis (51st) and Iowa (53rd).

In addition, the current Golfstat rankings indicate five of this week’s participants appeared in that service’s Top 100. No. 8 Lamar sets the pace, just ahead of 12th-ranked Arkansas. Others of note include No. 37 Michigan State, 47th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth and No. 48 UC Davis, with Minnesota (51st) and Iowa (56th) not far behind.

Through two tournaments this season, Notre Dame has only faced two of the other teams it will see in this week’s Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, going 1-2 against San Diego (0-1) and San Francisco (1-1). The Irish also wound up seven shots behind the USF “B” team at the season-opening USF Olympic Club Intercollegiate, but that result doesn’t count to the team’s season record.

The Course
A par-70, 7,023-yard layout designed by PGA Tour veteran (and 2002 World Golf Hall of Famer) Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, the Warren Golf Course on the Notre Dame campus is based on a traditional “walkable” Irish and American courses favored around the turn of the 20th century. The course winds its way through 250 wooded acres and is based on subtleties rather than special effects, including small, undulating greens and 88 strategically-placed bunkers which were recently renovated as part of a course-wide improvement project.

The Warren Golf Course has been rated one of the nation’s top 15 collegiate courses by Golf Digest (Sept. 2005 issue) and has played host to several championship events. Among the more notable tournaments to be played at the course since its debut eight years ago are: the 2005 NCAA Central Regional, three U.S. Amateur sectional qualifiers (2004, 2007, 2008), four Western Amateur qualifiers (2005-08), five BIG EAST Conference Men’s Golf Championships (2000, 2002-05) and three BIG EAST Women’s Championships (2003-05).

Tournament History
A new tradition began in 2006 when the University of Notre Dame played host to the inaugural Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic at the Warren Golf Course. Created by head coach Jim Kubinski, the Gridiron Golf Classic features a fun-filled weekend, blending the best of college golf with the unique experience of a Notre Dame football game, as well as the opportunity to visit other landmarks in the South Bend area, including the College Football Hall of Fame and the Studebaker Museum.

Lamar won the first-ever Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic title in 2006 by carding a three-round total of 860 (+20), finishing 29 strokes clear of tournament runner-up Notre Dame (889, +49). The Cardinals’ Justin Harding earned medalist honors at 213 (+3), one shot better than Notre Dame’s Cole Isban and Vanderbilt’s Luke List (both at 214, +4).

Last year, Michigan State took the tournament championship at seven-over par 847, easing past Arkansas and defending champion Lamar by 14 strokes. MSU’s Ryan Brehm was the ’07 tournament medalist at 205 (-5), five shots in front of Notre Dame’s Doug Fortner and Virginia’s Greg Carlin (both shot even-par 210).

Teams for this event are selected based upon two important criteria. Those schools that are among the very best academic institutions in the country are cross-referenced with the top golf programs in America to identify those teams with an elite blend of excellence on the course and in the classroom.

The Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic is made possible thanks to the ongoing sponsorship and support from the Isban family and the University of Notre Dame Department of Athletics. In addition, the tournament organizers wish to extend their thanks to Waterford Estates Lodge for their assistance in housing each of the participating teams in this week’s event, as well as Jersey Mike’s Subs for their help in feeding all of our visiting teams.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities for this one-of-a-kind tournament, or to learn more about ways to volunteer for future collegiate events at the Warren Golf Course, contact Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski in the Irish men’s golf office at (574) 631-5907 or kubinski.4@nd.edu.

Captains Courageous
Senior Josh Sandman (out for the fall with a back injury) and junior Olavo Batista will serve as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2008-09 season.

The .500 Rule
According to a rule passed by the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee prior to the 2007-08 season, teams must finish with a winning head-to-head record (i.e. better than .500) in order to be considered for a berth in postseason play. Notre Dame currently owns a 14-14 record against Division I opponents this season.

Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame has won six BIG EAST Conference titles in its 13-year league affiliation, stringing together three consecutive crowns from 1995-97 and again from 2004-06. The Irish also have made 33 NCAA postseason appearances in their history (most recently in 2006 with a trip to the NCAA East Regional), winning the 1944 national title and finishing second in 1937.
  • Notre Dame has taken its play to new levels in recent years, posting the three single-season stroke averages in school history since head coach Jim Kubinski took over as head coach in January 2005. The Irish also have carded 11 of the top 15 tournament scores (54 holes) in program history during the Kubinski era, including a school-record 842 (-22) at the 2006 BIG EAST Championship.
  • Notre Dame’s impressive resurgence of late has been augmented by its play against nationally-ranked opponents. In fact, since Kubinski arrived under the Golden Dome, the Irish have defeated 15 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 16 top-five tournament finishes, including three event titles (most recently the `06 BIG EAST Championship).
  • Kubinski himself was nominated for a place on the 2007 GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers List, after being placed into consideration by the Indiana Section of the PGA. Approximately 400-500 people are chosen annually from the 30,000 PGA professionals nationwide for a few select places on the GOLF Magazine list, whose membership includes such notables as Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Rick Smith.

Next Up: Prestige at PGA WEST (Oct. 13-14)
It’s a quick turnaround for the Irish as they head back out to the West Coast for the third time in four tournaments this fall, competing in the Prestige at PGA WEST on Oct. 13-14. Notre Dame has played in the La Quinta, Calif.-based event (co-hosted by Stanford and UC Davis) three times in the past four years, with its best finish being a tie for fifth place in 2005. Irish individuals traditionally have had good success in the tournament, which is played on the Greg Norman Course at the PGA WEST facility, with Cole Isban placing second in 2004, Scott Gustafson sharing third in 2005 and current senior Josh Sandman tying for 10th in 2006.

— ND —