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Gustafson in hunt for championship

Annie Brusky | Tuesday, March 2, 2004

One-and-a-half rounds of intense competition at the Cleveland Golf Collegiate Invitational Monday allowed the Irish to see how they compare with some of the best teams in the nation.

Sophomore Scott Gustafson stands only six strokes behind the leader after shooting a career-low 68 in the second round of the tournament.

The tournament was stopped because of darkness midway through the second round with 27 golfers, including two from Notre Dame, still on the course, Mark Baldwin and Eric Deutsch. They will resume play early this morning before the third and final round begins.

Notre Dame currently stands in 15th place in the 17-team field, following its13-over-par 297 in the first round.

The tournament, held in Westlake Village, Calif., is hosted by USC and includes eight of the top 25 collegiate teams, including No. 2 UCLA, No. 6 Arizona State, No. 8 TCU and No. 10 Texas. Tennessee is the surprising first-round leader, leading Alabama by one stroke at 279.

“We’re really excited to play against some of the top teams,” Gustafson said before the tournament. “It’s really good to test ourselves.”

Gustafson holds a 36-hole score of 141, 1-under par. He kicked off his personal-best 3-under par round with two consecutive birdies, and finished with five birdies overall, adding to an already solid opening round. His 2-over par 73 in the morning included an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole.

Gustafson leads the Irish, and he is joined by freshman Cole Isban and sophomore Tommy Balderston.

Isban sits at 11-over, shooting 153 (74-79), while Balderston is 12-over with a154 (73-81). Both of the Irish golfers came out strong but struggled with bogies as the day progressed.

Sophomores Balwin and Deutsch have several more holes to finish in the second round, after both recorded a 6-over par 77 in the opening circuit.

“We really have to focus and bring our best game because we know all the other teams will,” Gustafson said.

After one of the most successful fall seasons in school history and a second place finish at the Rice Intercollegiate nearly a month ago, this is the first real test of the spring season for the young Irish team.

“We always have high expectations,” Gustafson said. “We have the talent to compete with anybody, it’s just a matter of bringing our best game.”