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Men’s Golf Commentary: Sandman rallies after early mistakes to take top honors

Ian Gavlick | Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Five holes into Josh Sandman’s round Tuesday morning, the final round of the 54-hole Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, the fifth-year senior was all but out of the tournament he was in command of just an hour prior.

Thirteen holes later, Sandman captured the first individual title of his collegiate career, coming back with the sort of grit and determination that could only be exhibited by a player who has been through it all.

After an outstanding first two rounds that left him two under par and four strokes ahead of the field, the wheels came off for Sandman from the very beginning of a rainy round three.

Three consecutive bogeys on the first three holes brought Sandman back over par for the tournament, and after a par on the par-3 4th, his tee shot found the fairway on the 518 yard par-5 5th, as much of a birdie hole as the Warren Course has to offer.

But after his second shot found the trees to the right of the green, his poke out traveled to just in front of the small bunker that guards the front of the green. Though always one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, Sandman’s frustration with his round seemed to escalate with each stoke.

He left his chip in the bunker, left his bunker shot short of the green, and then managed an up and down for a double bogey seven.

Iowa’s Vince India, also paired in the final group, began the day eight strokes behind Sandman but erased that deficit entirely in those first five holes, paring a string of three consecutive birdies on holes 3-5 against Sandman’s struggles.

Five holes, five over par, and his 36-hole lead had vanished.

Most players would concede that it just wasn’t going to be their day. But after missing the entire 2008-09 campaign recovering from back surgery, there was no way Sandman was going to let his best opportunity to win a tournament in his five years slip away.

On the sixth tee, everything seemed to change.

The clouds broke, the sun came out, Sandman stripped off his GoreTex, and began an entirely new round of golf.

His final 13 holes were nearly flawless.

Sandman righted the ship on the front nine, closing out with four straight pars for a 5-over 40.

On the back nine, Sandman took back control of the tournament. After a par on 10 and a lone bogey on the difficult 245-yard par-3 11th, Sandman was mistake free in his final seven holes.

With birdies on both the par-3 14th and par-5 17th holes down the stretch, and a key par putt on 18, Sandman finished up with a respectable four-over par 74 for the day, one-under par on the final 13 holes after his nearly disastrous start.

His two-over 212 for the tournament was good for a two stroke victory, and with the monkey now off his back, and the adversity of a shaky start overcome, don’t be surprised if it’s his first of many this season.

Contact Ian Gavlick at igavlick@nd.edu

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