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MEN’S GOLF: Irish defeat five ranked opponents

Ken Fowler | Monday, April 4, 2005

Against one of the toughest fields they have ever faced in a regular-season tournament, the Irish captured a tie for sixth, besting five top-25 teams and tying another in the Augusta State Invitational this weekend.Despite finishing 29 shots behind host school and champions Augusta State, Notre Dame achieved essentially every expectation the team had coming into the weekend.While the Irish “didn’t play our best,” junior Scott Gustafson said, “we still beat a lot of top-15 teams.”For a team ranked in the 60s nationally, that’s saying something.After shooting consecutive 310s on the hilly Forest Hill Golf Club in windy conditions Saturday and Sunday, Notre Dame had its best team round on Sunday.Gustafson led the Irish in the final round with a stellar round of even-par 72. He rallied from a Saturday 82 and Sunday-morning 81 to post the sixth-lowest round of the tournament Sunday afternoon.”I was kind of down on myself after finishing that second round of play,” he said. “I was looking for any kind of momentum I could get.”He found it immediately.With the shotgun start Sunday afternoon, Gustafson teed off on the par-five sixth, and got the round off to a fast start with a birdie four. Three holes later, he birdied the par-five ninth. Then, on his ninth hole of the afternoon, he made birdie three to reach three-under at the halfway point.After rebounding with a birdie on the 11th and making two consecutive pars after bogeying the 10th, Gustafson was still at three-under after 14 holes.Despite a double bogey on the 15th hole and a bogey on the 16th, Gustafson finished the round at even par, the fourth-best score for the third round. He finished the tournament in a tie for 38th individually, good for third on the team.Before Gustafson’s big round, Cole Isban and Mark Baldwin had carried the Irish for the first two rounds.Isban and Baldwin shot matching 75’s in the morning round Sunday, and Isban had a four-over 76 to begin the tournament. Those two rounds left Isban in a tie for sixth and Baldwin tied for 14th after two rounds.”We had high expectations, myself and for the team,” Isban said. We knew that this was a top-notch field with a lot of top 25 teams here and we were excited.”Isban had the best individual total for the Irish at 228 (12-over par), good for a tie for 14th while Baldwin tied for 25th overall with a 17-over 233, second on the team.”I had a couple stretches of bogeys and doubles that really hurt my position,” Isban said. “But fortunately I was able to come back with two or three birdies each round that at least held me in there.”For the team, this was a big confidence booster.”This definitely gives us a little bit of momentum and a little more confidence,” Gustafson said. “We’ve got another big event coming up in Texas A&M with a similar field, and we know we can play well.”Isban echoed Gustafson’s sentiments.”We love getting this opportunity to play these [top] teams,” he said. “We feel that we can play with anyone in the country now.”That confidence will be pivotal for the Irish in the upcoming weeks.First, they tee off in the Texas A&M Invitational Apr. 16-17, with a field just as tough as this week’s.Then, it’s back home to Warren for the Big East Championship Apr. 23-24.For now, the Irish are happy with what they’ve done this week and will use it as a platform for future tournaments.”This week was great for us,” Isban said, “to see how far we have come and yet have so much more we could do.”