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Men’s Golf: Golfers maintain high spirits despite weather

Peter Steiner | Monday, February 27, 2012

Whether you come from sunny California or chilly North Dakota, winter weather in South Bend is always a hot topic for Notre Dame students.

It’s no different for the men’s golf team, whose athletic year is split in half by the winter months. Fortunately for the Irish, this doesn’t mean they have to stop playing golf when the Warren Golf Course shuts down.

“At the Rolfs Family Varsity Golf Facility at the Warren Golf Course, we have an indoor-outdoor training facility, basically,” Irish coach Jim Kubinski said. “And what that entails is hitting days where garage doors open up and we can hit balls onto the range. Even if we get some snow we are still able to hit some.  

“That helps us keep the golf club in our hands and work on some things and make swing changes. We also have an indoor putting and chipping area so we can work on our short game even in the winter time.”

While many sports also have fall and spring seasons, golf is one of the only two-season sports that cannot continue to play indoors.  Unlike schools in warmer climates, the Irish are forced to stick to the driving range and chipping and putting green. 

The ability to play on the course year-round is a plus for these warm-weather schools, but the great facilities at Notre Dame keep the Irish from falling too far behind, Kubiniski said.

“I wouldn’t say it is a huge disadvantage because we do have the capability to practice some,” Kubiniski said. “But I would say it’s a slight disadvantage. But we have so many positive things that I think that’s what attracts kids to our team.”

In addition to training at these facilities in the winter, many players originate from more southern locations and play their home courses over winter break to stay fresh.  In fact, even those who do not live in warm places will often stay with their teammates to practice their golf game.

“Not only do the players get to go home and play for those four weeks of Christmas break, but they sometimes invite some of their teammates to come out and join them and play some golf and practice,” Kubinski said. “Some guys will do that and even go to Florida for a week or two and practice.”

The spring season began Feb. 13, when the Irish travelled to Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla., for The Match Play.  The Irish won the tournament with strong play from seniors Tom Usher and Chris Walker.

The three-month respite between seasons didn’t affect Notre Dame’s play and the Rolfs Family Varsity Golf Facility was a large reason for the team’s solid play, Kubinski said.

“Our guys had to play really, really well [to win The Match Play] and I think had we not had the indoor capability we have, I don’t know if we would’ve come out on top,” Kubinski said. “The building has helped a lot.”

With a tournament win already under their belts, Kubiniski and the Irish are ready to continue their spring season in what looks to be a promising year.

“This is honestly the most excited I’ve been for a spring season since I arrived here at Notre Dame,” Kubinski said. “I think this team can be right up there to compete for the championship.  There are some very strong fields, but I loved the things we showed a couple of weeks ago at The Match Play that we didn’t necessarily show before in terms of mental toughness, discipline and just belief.”

The Irish will return to the course this weekend for exhibition matches with Notre Dame alumni at Harbour Town Resort in Hilton Head Island, S.C.  

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu