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Men’s Golf: Struggling Irish head to Duke

Michael Bryan | Friday, October 5, 2007

Notre Dame will look to rebound from a disappointing eighth-place performance at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic last weekend when it competes in the Coca-Cola Duke Golf Classic Sunday in Durham, N.C.

The Irish will be part of a strong 15-team field that includes host No. 13 Duke and No. 19 Wake Forest. Other top teams in the field include Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Maryland.

Irish coach Jim Kubinski said the team enjoys playing challenging fields that include ranked teams.

“The guys get excited about it,” Kubinski said. “That’s why they come to Notre Dame, to play against the top national competition.”

The 54-hole event begins at the Duke Golf Club with two rounds Sunday on the par-72 course. The tournament will end Monday with the final 18 holes of the 7,105-yard course.

Last year’s Duke Golf Classic champion, Coastal Carolina, will not return to defend its title.

This is Notre Dame’s first time playing in the Duke Golf Classic, but Kubinski has high expectations for the team’s performance.

“Our No. 1 goal would be to have all five players in contention for a counting score,” Kubinski said. “A top-five score would be good as far as NCAA standings.”

Notre Dame enters the tournament coming off a setback this week at the Gridiron Golf Classic. The Irish struggled at the Warren Golf Course after a strong opening round, falling from third Sunday to an eventual tie for eighth Tuesday. Michigan State won by 14 shots in the only home tournament for the Irish this year.

Kubinski said the Irish will look to sharpen some areas of their game at the Duke Classic that the team struggled with this week.

“I think the main things we want to improve are our putting and iron play,” Kubinski said.

The highlight of the tournament for Notre Dame was the play of sophomore Doug Fortner, who tied for second. Fortner’s finish was the best of his Notre Dame career, and his 54-hole total of 210 tied for third lowest in Irish history.

Another bright spot for the Irish was the performances of several underclassmen participating in the tournament as individuals. Sophomore Kyle Willis and freshman Tyler Hock finished in the top 20 for the Irish in the tournament.

“Tyler’s been playing very well,” Kubinski said. “He’s going to be playing in his first travel event this week and I think he’ll do very well.”

Kubinski also said he expected junior Josh Sandman and senior Greg Rodgers to continue their good play.

Many young Irish golfers will play this fall as Notre Dame looks to find its top performers.

“With so many players with so little experience, a lot of guys will get a chance to contribute,” Kubinski said.