Junior Carl Santos-Ocampo (a native of Naples, Fla.) will make his spring season debut and return to his home state this weekend as the Irish head to Delray Beach, Fla., for the inaugural FAU Spring Break Championship at Gleneagles Country Club.

Redemption On Minds Of Irish As They Swing Back Into Action Monday

Oct. 12, 2008

The Prestige at PGA WEST
Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 13-14, 2008
7:30 a.m. (PT) both days
Greg Norman Course at PGA WEST
La Quinta, Calif.
Par 72/7,156 yards

Redemption On Minds Of Irish As They Swing Back Into Action Monday
For the third time in six weeks, Notre Dame will head out to California for a high-powered tournament, as the Irish venture to the desert outside Palm Springs on Monday and Tuesday for The Prestige at PGA WEST. The strong 16-team field includes a number of nationally-ranked opponents and is co-hosted by Stanford and UC Davis on the scenic Greg Norman Course at the PGA WEST facility in La Quinta, Calif.

Notre Dame is coming off a rocky performance at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic this past week, finishing 15th with a score of 71-over par 911. The Irish will look for better things with their veteran all-BIG EAST performer, junior Doug Fortner (73.67 stroke average in 2008-09) anchoring the lineup. Fellow junior and 2008 U.S. Amateur participant Carl Santos-Ocampo (75.56) gets his second start this year along with sophomore Dustin Zhang (77.17), while second-year standout Connor Alan-Lee (74.89) joins Fortner as the only Irish golfers to compete in all four tournaments this fall. Freshman Tom Usher (74.67) has been tapped to fill the fifth and final spot in this week’s lineup, with the Bradford, England, native set to make his debut with the Notre Dame starting quintet.

Quoting Coach Kubinski…
“We have a big week in front of us. The Norman Course at PGA WEST, is a great test. The Prestige itself is one of the very best collegiate events in the country. Of course, coming off a performance at home that no one could have forecast, this week is also a tremendous opportunity for us. We can show what we’re made of.

“Sometimes things start to go one way and regardless of effort or attitude or preparation, a team just doesn’t play to its ability. We’ve seen it in all sports. Yet, often, that same team comes out a week later and gets back to showing good habits and performs to its capabilities. We’re counting on that this week. We know we lost out at home but feel we can rebound with a solid effort this week.

“Our lineup will have junior Doug Fortner once again leading us. He’ll have a classmate in the lineup this week in U.S. Am contestant Carl Santos-Ocampo. Rounding out our five will be a pair of sophomores in Connor Alan-Lee and Dustin Zhang, as well as freshman Tom Usher, who will be making his debut with our starting five. I’d like to talk more about what they’re all bringing to our team this week but, honestly, actions speak louder than words. I expect they’ll bounce back and really show us something. They haven’t lost their resolve after a tough performance. In fact, I think they’re eager to get back out and play Notre Dame golf.”

Dates and Times
Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Monday and the final round on Tuesday, with both days beginning with a shotgun start at 7:30 a.m. PT (10:30 a.m. ET) and Monday’s play going continuously through the second round. All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.

Following The Irish
Live scoring is available for The Prestige at PGA WEST 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 Prestige at PGA WEST 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 Prestige at PGA WEST. 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 co-hosts Stanford and UC Davis, as well as Notre Dame, the remaining teams in the field for The Prestige at PGA WEST are: California, Central Florida, Colorado, Florida Southern (Division II), Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Pacific, Pepperdine, Rice, TCU and Washington.

According to the current edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches’ poll, no less than nine teams in this week’s tournament are either ranked or receiving votes. Stanford is ranked No. 5 in the poll, while Michigan (44 votes; 30th if the poll were extended), California and Washington (35 votes; tied-32nd), Colorado (34 votes; 35th), Central Florida (11 votes; 42nd), UC Davis (four votes; tie-53rd), Michigan State (three votes; tie-55th) and Northwestern (one vote; 60th) also garnered mention in the latest survey. In addition, Florida Southern is ranked fifth in the Sept. 25 Division II balloting.

Meanwhile, this week’s ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that 10 of the top 50 teams will be on hand for The Prestige at PGA WEST. Leading the way is fourth-ranked Washington, followed by No. 12 Stanford, No. 17 Michigan State, No. 21 California and No. 25 Pepperdine. Also in the top 50 of the Golfweek rankings are Michigan (28th), Colorado (30th), UC Davis (40th), Kentucky (42nd) and Central Florida (49th), with Northwestern (58th) and TCU (61st) on the outside looking in.

In addition, the Oct. 8 Golfstat rankings indicate nine of this week’s participants appeared in that service’s Top 50. No. 14 Washington, No. 16 Stanford and 21st-ranked California will be the pace-setters for the tournament field, while Michigan (26th), Michigan State (27th), Kentucky (32nd), Pepperdine (34th), UC Davis (36th) and Central Florida (48th) also are on the first page of the rankings board, with Colorado (52nd) and Northwestern (55th) not far behind. It should be noted Florida Southern currently owns the No. 1 ranking on Golfstat’s Division II page.

Through three tournaments this fall, Notre Dame has faced five of the other teams it will see in this week’s Prestige at PGA WEST, going 1-4 against California (0-1), UC Davis (0-1), Colorado (0-1), Michigan State (0-1) and Rice (1-0). Cal and Colorado finished 1-2 and Rice was 14th at the season-opening USF Olympic Club Intercollegiate on Sept. 8-9; the Irish were 10th, 28 strokes back of Cal and 20 back of CU, while ending up 19 strokes clear of Rice. UC Davis and MSU came to South Bend last week for the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, with UCD finishing second and the Spartans taking the bronze (Notre Dame placed 15th, 44 shots back of Davis and 40 strokes behind Michigan State).

The Course
The Greg Norman Course is one of the newest of the six championship-caliber layouts at the 2,200-acre PGA WEST development in La Quinta, Calif., located minutes outside Palm Springs. The resort opened in 1984 and has played host to numerous PGA Tour events during nearly a quarter century of service, including the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, where David Duval tied a Tour record and won the event with a final-round 59 in 1999. Measuring out at 7,156 yards, the par-72 Greg Norman Course lies in a seabed 40 feet below sea level, surrounded by an immense crescent of terra-cotta mountains. The course teems with purple, white and yellow wildflowers, while the mix of tall and short native grasses produce different shades of green running almost to silver. The grass covers just 60 acres of tight fairways that taper toward the greens with nine ponds covering 18 acres.

Tournament History
Notre Dame is making its fourth appearance in The Prestige at PGA WEST, all in the past five years, returning to the tournament after a one-year hiatus. The Irish have finished in the top 10 during each of their three prior trips to the southern California desert, peaking with a tie for fifth place in 2005 (880, +16), although they did shoot a team-best 879 (+15) in 2006 when they ended up in seventh place. Notre Dame individuals have experienced good success in this tournament as well, with the Irish placing at least one golfer in the top 10 on the individual ladder in each of their three previous visits. Cole Isban tied for second in 2004 (219, +3) and Scott Gustafson tied for third in 2005 (214, -2) before current senior Josh Sandman took home a share of 10th place in 2006 (213, -3).

Captains Courageous
Senior Josh Sandman (out for the fall with a back injury) and junior Olavo Batista are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2008-09 season. It’s the first time either man has been chosen to fill that role.

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 14-28 (.333) 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: UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship (Oct. 27-28)
Notre Dame will wind up its 2008 fall schedule at the end of October with its second trip in as many years to the UNC Greensboro Bridgestone Collegiate Championship at Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. The tournament originally had been selected as a homecoming for senior co-captain Josh Sandman (who calles Forest Oaks his home course), but the 2008 PING All-Midwest Region selection is out for the fall while recovering from back surgery. Last year, Notre Dame finished ninth in the event, with Sandman tying for 15th place (217, +1) after being within two shots of the lead entering the final round.

— ND —