Men’s Golf: Irish look to win third straight Big East championship
Joe Quinn | Monday, April 24, 2006
After a week-long hiatus following their best outing of the spring, the Irish will travel to Dade City, Fla. for the Big East championship on Monday and Tuesday.
After hosting the Big East Championship five out of the past six years, Notre Dame will attempt to win its third straight championship on South Florida’s home course.
The course, however, is not the only new element of the tournament this year. After expanding the conference, Notre Dame will see a number of new teams.
“With several new Big East teams now in the fold, it should make for a very competitive event,” Irish coach Jim Kubinski said.
One of the new teams, Louisville, has replaced Notre Dame atop the Big East standings, much to the team’s dismay.
“I was a little surprised by that,” Kubinski said. “Especially after beating them [in the Boilermaker Invitational], to see Louisville get the No. 1 seed was unexpected to say the least.”
If the Irish hope to regain their first place spot, they will most likely call on their seemingly unmatched experience.
“One of the coaches joked about this being Mark [Baldwin]’s 10th Big East championships,” Kubinski said.
While 10 is a bit of a stretch, both Baldwin and Scott Gustafson have been here before.
“Mark, being the defending individual champ, and Scott, now playing in his fourth Big East Championship, there’s no question that will help us this week,” Kubinski said.
One player who hasn’t been there before is freshman Josh Sandman. But if his play over the past month is any indication, that won’t hurt him in the least.
Kubinski said Sandman, who posted a 69 in the final round of the Boilermaker invitational, has been playing as well as anyone on the team.
In fact, Kubinski feels Sandman can lead the team to this year’s championship.
“If he plays like he’s been playing, he could possibly lead the team in scoring. And if he does that, we’ll be in good shape to win,” Kubinski said.
Fortunately for Sandman, he won’t have to do it by himself. All five golfers have been showing signs of greatness over the week-long break.
“Mark, Cole, Josh and Scott have all shot in the mid-60s in qualifying matches,” Kubinski said. “And our ‘fifth’ guy, Tommy Balderston, shot a 71, so he’s not too far off the pace.”
Kubinski is quick to note Balderston is not a typical fifth player, as he may have the most tournament experience. After battling neck and shoulder injuries in the fall, he was unable to participate in any official tournaments.
Kubinski, however, is confident that won’t hurt his performance.
“Tommy was actually selected All-Big East twice, so he knows how to play in these kind of tournaments,” Kubinski said. “It’s like having a number two or three talent at the number five spot.”