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Golf: Irish earn first win of season

Fowler, Ken | Wednesday, March 2, 2005

The Jim Kubinski era at Notre Dame just started on the right foot.

It took a couple more swings than the Irish may have wanted, but the Irish traveled down to the Bayou for the Nokia Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational at the English Turn Golf and Country Club and came back to campus with the team’s first victory of the 2004-2005 season.

After taking the lead through Monday’s two rounds, the Irish went out Tuesday determined to win.

However, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, down just a stroke heading into the final round, had the same idea for itself.

The Seahawks shot an impressive 294 to catch the Irish, which carded a team score of 295.

The two teams then played a one-hole, ten-man playoff to determine the winner. Each team’s five active players played the par-four No. 16 in fivesomes.

In the first group, Eddie Peckels gave the Irish a one-stroke lead when he drained a 25-foot birdie putt. Teammates Eric Deutsch and Mark Baldwin parred the hole, along with two Seahawks in that fivesome.

With three Wilmington players in the second group, Peckels, Baldwin and Deutsch had to watch and wait as Cole Isban and Tommy Balderston played with three Seahawks in the final group.

There, Wilm-ington put the pressure back on the Irish as two of three Seahawks landed their approaches within fifteen feet, but the other left his well short.

“Cole hit a nice drive and then his second shot to three or four feet…but it definitely wasn’t over,” Peckels said. “[Balderston] had a really tough up-and-down out of the bunker.”

Peckels was right – it wasn’t over.

But Balderston coolly landed his third shot within ten feet of the cup and proceeded to drain his par putt.

Then it was over.

Cole then tapped in his birdie, and the Irish won the playoff, 2-under to 1-over.

For Notre Dame, this marked the team’s first win since capturing the Big East Championship last April at the Warren Golf Course.

Which is cause for optimism.

Peckels believes that winning the first tournament of the spring was impressive for the Irish. “Especially coming out of the snow, we were probably the least prepared team in terms of rounds of play, just because of the climate we come from,” Peckels said.

“It’s hard to tell just on one tournament, but … we’ve got a lot of potential.”

A testament to that potential, every Irish golfer participating on the first day had at least one round count towards the total team score.

In addition, Isban’s even-par 144 (73-71) effort led the Irish Monday and tied him for first individually after 36 holes.

His 77 on Tuesday removed him from contention for the individual title, but his play in the playoff helped seal the deal in the team’s win.

He finished in a tie for fifth individually.Where Isban dropped off Tuesday, however, other Irish golfers picked up.

Balderston shot a one-under 71 in the final round and Baldwin carded an even-par 72. Peckels and Deutsch each shot respectable rounds of 76.

Baldwin’s solid round propelled him from 20th to 12th, and Balderston’s 71 earned him 19th individually.