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Men’s Golf: Coach receives special opportunity this summer

Chris Allen | Monday, September 6, 2010

With an impressive list of accomplishments spanning 20 years in golf, Irish head coach James Kubinski is considered one of the greats in teaching the game. On Aug. 10, however, through the good fortune of a former player, Kubinski found himself on the golf course in the company of legends.

Over the summer, 2007 Notre Dame graduate and former Irish golfer Cole Isban called Kubinski and asked him to caddy in an event on Aug. 10. The request from Isban — arguably the best Notre Dame golfer in program history — seemed reasonable to Kubinski.

“I figured it would be for [Isban],” Kubinski said in a press release. “So I said sure.”

The event turned out to be more than the average round of golf for Kubinski, as he filled a vacancy at caddy in the grand opening round of golfing great Jack Nicklaus’ new Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Mich.

The opening event, staged by Isban’s sports marketing firm, featured golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson. Kubinski was on the bag for Watson as the foursome played the first round on the course. The opportunity placed Notre Dame’s top man side-by-side with some of his heroes.

“As each player was announced with their accomplishments, it really sunk in that this group had combined to win 35 professional major championships,” Kubinski said. “It was surreal. I’m not sure you could put together a different foursome at any time in the history of the game any more impressive.”

Of note in the group was the course designer Nicklaus, whose 18 major titles rank as the best all-time and undoubtedly position him as the greatest living golfer. Kubinski walked away from the round with a sense of the intensity that made the man they call the “Golden Bear” such a winner.

“Jack took a little extra time over the ball on his approach [on the first tee],” Kubinski said. “Golf’s all-time greatest player, to date, was giving us a lesson in how he became the game’s greatest champion.”

Kubinski, who is preparing an Irish squad that begins competitive play at the College of Charleston Invitational in Kiawah Island, S. C. next Monday, took the opportunity to learn as much as he could from the four legends in the hopes of passing it on to his team.

“From the clinic the four greats put on before the match and then right through the 18 holes, there were so many learning opportunities,” Kubinski said. “The wisdom afforded all in attendance was remarkable. I always tell our players that the guy talking all the time probably isn’t learning much. Of course, if you’re not learning, it’s difficult to improve yourself. The person who opens his ears and his mind is best suited for growth. I spent the day listening. It was a day I will never forget.”