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Shaky start for Irish in California

Mike Blasco | Tuesday, September 9, 2008

After tearing up the infamously treacherous local courses during their trip to the Emerald Isle early last month, Notre Dame is wishing it brought home a little bit more of the luck of the Irish as a souvenir.

The Notre Dame squad sits in ninth place in a field of 15 after the first round of the USF Intercollegiate Invitational at the 6,833-yard, par 71 Olympic Club in Daly City, Calif., just outside San Francisco. Their 14-over 298 trails leader California by 11 strokes.

The Golden Bears (287) go into the second round with a narrow 4-stroke lead over host USF, who sits in second with a 7-over 291. Senior Adam West of UAB shot the low round of the day with a 2-under 69.

Although erratic, the Irish golfers showed flashes of brilliance and head coach Jim Kubinski is confident in his young squad.

“As with any sport, you’re not sure exactly what you have until you begin to compete,” Kubinski said. “I like our young group, though. They’ve shown signs already of being a special group. We’re excited to get started and will just try to keep improving throughout the season.”

Irish junior Doug Fortner, whose 67 at Ballybunion last month is quickly becoming the stuff of Notre Dame legend, bogeyed seven of his first eleven holes to start the day. He responded with a birdie on 12 and finished the first round with a 6-over 77.

Junior Carlos Santos-Ocampo began the day with a brilliant eagle at the 533-yard, par 5 first, but shot two bogeys and a double bogey in quick succession. He is fresh off his appearance in match play at the U.S. Amateur Tournament – the first Irish golfer in four decades to reach match play at that tournament.

Santos-Ocampo scattered three birdies, two double bogeys, and a bogey over the rest of the round to finish the day 4-over at 75.

Sophomore Conor Alan Lee shot a disappointing 7-over 78, with no birdies. Fellow sophomore Tyler Hock sat at 3-over after 15 holes, but birdied two of his final three to end the day with a solid 72, the low Irish round of the day. Sophomore Jeff Chen’s day began promisingly, taking the turn one under par, but bogeyed four of his final eight holes to end up at plus 3 with a 74. In total, the underclassmen put up the two low rounds of the day for Notre Dame.

“Both [sophomores] Connor Alan-Lee and Tyler Hock played multiple events last season and put together impressive stretches at times,” Kubinski said. “They look to be stronger players this season as both have worked hard and gone through a natural maturation from their frosh campaigns. Jeff Chen is the newcomer to the lineup. He’s a very consistent player with a very, very good short game. Jeff plays intelligently. I look for him to be very steady in our lineup.”

The second round finished late Monday night. The third and final round begins this morning at 11 a.m. with a shotgun start.