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Men’s Golf: Irish boast tough schedule

Conor Kelly | Friday, August 19, 2011

After a successful 2011 spring — which included a Big East championship and a 10th place finish in the NCAA tournament — Irish coach Jim Kubinski said the biggest victory of the spring campaign was his squad’s newfound belief in themselves as true competitors on the national scene.

“You know, we were right up there for the lead through 27 holes at the NCAA championship,” Kubinski said. “Obviously you have to play 54 holes, but my guys really started to feel that they didn’t just want or hope to compete, but that they knew they could play well and expected to.”

The Irish will certainly have the opportunity to test themselves against the best competition in the country over the next couple of months as they have their toughest schedule in recent memory, Kubinski said.

“Stanford, Texas, Augusta State — the defending national champions — they’re all on our schedule,” he said. “If we get through the fall season fine, it will put us in a fantastic position for NCAAs in the spring.”

Though the team will not formally practice together until Wednesday, its individual members have hardly been complacent during the summer. All healthy Irish golfers, including three incoming freshmen, have played in junior tournaments since the end of the spring season. Senior Max Scodro will compete in the U.S. Amateur Championship Monday. Scodro shined toward the end of the spring and is set to lead the Irish this fall along with classmate Tom Usher, once Usher recovers from a hand injury.

“Scodro came into last season as a really solid college player, but he has the chance now to really elevate his game,” Kubinski said. “He’ll be a real leader on our team.”

Scodro and Usher headline a squad that returns a top-five that saw the lion’s share of time last season.

Though the loss of Connor Alan-Lee, Dustin Zhang and Justin Chen will be impactful, the Irish have a glut of talented and experienced golfers to choose from, with Scodro and Usher, fellow senior Chris Walker, junior Paul McNamara and sophomore Niall Platt all returning.

“We’ll have a lot of skilled golfers on this team, and I can see a number of real competitions for spots in our top-five,” Kubinski said.

After last year’s success, Kubinski expects the squad to progress even further during the 2011-12 season.

“Last year these guys proved to themselves that they could compete. Now they are looking to take it up a level,” he said.

The Irish first take to the course Sept. 11 at the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn.