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Men’s Golf: Two seniors bring leadership, experience to Notre Dame

By Andrew Gastelum | Friday, September 9, 2011

Notre Dame will kick off its Big East title defense this weekend when it heads to the University of Minnesota for the seventh annual Gopher Invitational to open the season.

The Irish won their seventh Big East title last year when they cruised to victory at the Big East Championship in May, defeating runner-up Louisville by a margin of six strokes.

And for a team that didn’t lose any starters, the squad’s expectations go beyond just defending their conference championship, senior Max Scodro said.

“Of course we want to repeat our Big East championship, but we didn’t lose anyone from the starting lineup so we are going to push for that national championship,” Scodro said.

Scodro leads the strong Irish squad and played this past summer in the U.S. Amateur Championships. Scodro made the cut and qualified in a tightly-contested playoff round after shooting a 67 on the second day. But the senior lost in the next round after he drew the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world, UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay.

Scodro is also the reigning Big East Player of the Year and was recently listed in the top-50 of Golf World’s list of the world’s best college golfers.

“Max has been great so far this year,” Irish coach Jim Kubinski said. “I think his experience this summer [at the U.S. Amateur Championships] has helped him a lot. I think he’s been between 69 and 73 every round this year so far with a lot of sub-seventies.  He’s going to have a great year.”

At the Gopher Invitational, the Irish will be up against 13 other schools from 10 different conferences, the most in the tourney’s seven-year history. This year’s lineup includes Kent State, Liberty University, Charlotte, Penn State, Lamar University, Wisconsin and Santa Clara, among others.

Those others are highlighted by No. 10 Arkansas, who finished third in last year’s Gopher Invitational and 15th at the NCAA Championships. The Razorbacks are led by sophomore Sebastian Cappelen, who finished second in individual competition at the Invitational last year. Cappelen was ranked at No. 25 at the end of his freshman year and had a stroke average of slightly under 72 last year, a Razorbacks best for the 2010-2011 season.

Joining Arkansas as one of the favorites is No. 19 Iowa, coming off a record-setting season where it finished tied for 10th at the NCAA Championships last year. The Hawkeyes fashion a senior-laden lineup headed by Chris Brant. Brant finished seventh in last year’s Gopher Invitational and posted the second-lowest average score in program history.

Filling out the field is Houston, one of college golf’s most storied programs with 16 NCAA titles.

Yet despite the heightened sense of competition, Kubinski has seen his group progress in training and is optimistic that his unranked squad can steal a win this weekend.

“We had a great round today.  If we play this weekend like we have been during practice and qualifying, I’m confident that we’ll have a good chance to win this weekend,” he said. “[Our starters] have all been shooting around 70 recently, so we’re feeling great about our top five. We’ve been playing some very difficult courses, but they’ve been playing very well.”

The Irish head to the Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn. for the Gopher Invitational on Sunday to start the fall season.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastelum@nd.edu