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Men’s Golf: Irish overcome poor first round, finish seventh

Fran Tolan | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

After a first round that Notre Dame coach Jim Kubinski called “terrible,” the Irish stormed back in the final two rounds to place seventh in a strong 15-team field at the Prestige in La Quinta, California Oct. 16 and 17.

The Irish carded an opening-round 302 and were stuck in thirteenth place before a strong comeback, culminating in a third-round 282 that matched Notre Dame’s sixth-best 18-hole team score ever.

“I was proud of the way we fought back,” Kubinski said. “I think it says a lot about our guys.”

Co-host Stanford won the event with a team score of 849, 30 shots better than Notre Dame.

The Irish were led by sophomore Josh Sandman and senior co-captain Cole Isban, who both finished with scores under par.

Sandman shot a personal-best 67 (-5) in the final round and ended up in a tie for tenth place with a three-under par 213.

“I honestly think Josh is as talented as anyone in college golf,” Kubinski said of his budding star. “This is a glimpse of what’s to come, not an exception to the rule.”

Sandman, meanwhile, is simply happy to be healthy and playing well after struggling through back injuries last year.

“I was injured for awhile but I’m glad to see things are starting to fall into place for me,” the sophomore said. “This was my best tournament since I’ve been at [Notre Dame].”

Isban, who has been the team’s strongest golfer throughout the season, finished in 14th place with a one-under par 215.

“Cole knows that he has to play well every time we tee off and he did [at the Prestige],” Kubinski said.

Senior co-captain Adam Gifford placed 25th with a personal-best score of four-over par 220. He also recorded the first under-par score of his career during the third round when he carded a two-under 70.

“With [Gifford] and [Sandman] playing like they did, I think we showed how good we can be,” Kubinski said.

Rounding out the Notre Dame top five were freshman Doug Fortner and junior Greg Rodgers.

Fortner carded a 16-over par 232 and Rodgers recorded a 21-over par 237.

The Irish, while not entirely pleased with the seventh place result, finished just two shots behind both No. 1-ranked USC and No. 27 Kansas.

“We’re not too happy with seventh but we just needed a couple more shots to beat those teams,” Isban said.

Before this event, Kubinski had said that he was hoping for a top-5 finish in La Quinta. His wish was not realized, but he was optimistic after the strong closing round.

“I see [the result] as a way to build momentum,” he said.

The Irish will be in action again on Nov. 6 and 7 at the CordeValle Collegiate, hosted by UCLA at the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif.