Men’s Golf: Irish compete in Big East tourney
Chris Doyen | Friday, April 20, 2007
After two straight weekends of battling harsh conditions, the Irish will get a break as they expect good weather for the Big East championships at the Cardinal Club in Louisville, Ky.
But while the elements won’t be a problem for the Irish, the conference opponents will provide a different kind of challenge.
The Irish have faced a Big East opponent only once in tournament play this spring, last weekend when Louisville was in the field for the Kepler Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio. Louisville won the tournament, finishing 37 strokes ahead of the 11th-place Irish.
But Irish coach Jim Kubinski said last weekend was not entirely indicative of where the two teams stand.
“They’ve had a great season, but the conditions [last weekend] were the worst I’ve ever played in, coached in, or watched on TV,” he said. “[Last week’s scores aren’t] indicative of anything. We had a tough start, and the more we tried to catch up, the more ground we lost. I never even looked at the leaderboard.”
The Irish have won the conference title each of the past three years. In 2006, they did so in dramatic fashion. The second-seeded Irish erased a 12-stroke deficit in the final round to force a playoff with top-seeded Louisville. Current sophomore Josh Sandman’s birdie on the first hole of the sudden death playoff secured a victory for the Irish.
Three of the four golfers who posted sub-par scores on that final day have graduated, so the Irish need contributions from some newer faces. Kubinski said two of last year’s stars, Sandman and senior co-captain and All-America candidate Cole Isban, will lead the team in Louisville.
“If Cole and Josh play up to their capability, we should have a great chance to win come Tuesday,” he said.
With Greg Rodgers, Doug Fortner, and Adam Gifford rounding out the lineup for the Irish, Kubinski said Notre Dame will have a solid five-man team for the first time this season.
And, even though the Irish enter the tournament as three-time defending champions, they won’t be feeling any pressure.
“This year, the pressure is squarely on Louisville,” Kubinski said. “They’ve been in the top 20 all year, and they’re playing at home. We’re ready to play, and we feel loose and free, and we’re ready to just have fun.”
The tournament runs from Sunday through Tuesday, and the Irish hope to again upset top-seeded Louisville as the tournament’s second seed.