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Men’s Golf: Veterans redefine Irish technique, standards

Peter Steiner | Thursday, March 29, 2012

In their four years at Notre Dame, seniors Max Scodro, Chris Walker and Tom Usher have led the Irish to a Big East Championship title, an NCAA tournament regional appearance and a combined five individual tournament wins.

Considering the Irish failed to record a tournament win three years ago, the impact these three seniors have had on the Irish is undeniable. But even though these seniors’ success is easily seen in the statistics they have compiled, it is even easier to understand their achievements through the words of their coach.

“Without these three guys and their contributions, I don’t know where we would be,” Irish coach Jim Kubinski said. “They have done a tremendous job and to have the top three scoring averages of all time on the teams they’ve been on is a great testament to how good of players they’ve been.”

The trio’s most successful season thus far came during their junior year when the Irish took home eight top-two team finishes. Scodro led the Irish last year with a scoring average of 73.3, while Walker and Usher finished the year with scoring averages of 73.9 and 74.9, respectively. Not only has the trio brought success to the program, but they have also changed the style of play, Walker said.

“I think the three of us sort of revolutionized the program in terms of the style of players that we are,” Walker said. “The three of us are longer hitters and more aggressive. I think that when all three of us started to travel in our sophomore year it kind of gave a new dynamic to the team.”

Yet, the influence Scodro, Walker and Usher have made reaches beyond just their play on the course. Having played on the team for four years, the seniors have now become leaders. According to Kubinski, the Irish recently had a team meeting to discuss the struggles the team experienced in their last two tournaments.

“In the team meeting, Max spoke right up,” Kubinski said. “When he speaks, there is no questioning the young guys are listening and gaining confidence and really excited to finish off this season in a big way. Tom and Chris have always been the same way.

“I think without that leadership, a coach is really searching for things, but with those guys it really puts us in a great position to finish off this season on a high note.”

Among the trio, Scodro has grabbed the most headlines in his four years. He was just named Big East Golfer of the Week for the second consecutive week and his current season stroke average is the lowest in school history at 71.43.

“Max is just getting better and better,” Kubinski said. “I think his stroke average this spring is as good as anyone’s we can remember so he is doing just an outstanding job.”

Having played in every event this year and last, Walker has been a stalwart in the Irish lineup. Of the three seniors, Walker has made some of the biggest improvements since he came to Notre Dame as a freshman.

“It’s great to see Chris now as a senior and the strides he has made these last three years – his emotional maturity, dedication to the game,” Kubinski said. “He has not necessarily shown this spring, but the last couple of years, shooting a 67 in down in Texas last year, and the capability he has, winning all four matches at The Match Play, just shows a lot to show what he has done to grow as a player and as a person.”

Finally, Usher has achieved his fair share of success in the past four years. While he has struggled in his senior year so far, Usher tied for first in the Big East Championship his sophomore year and won the St. Mary’s Invitational his junior year.

“Tom has been older than his age since he arrived,” Kubinski said. “He is just such a mature young guy. He had an injury last spring which took him back a little bit and he made a swing change in the fall, but he is really coming around. I am really excited to watch the three of them play at the [All American Intercollegiate at The Woodlands Golf Course] and then go to the Big East championship and NCAAs.”

Despite the achievements of the senior trio over the past four years, they are not done yet. The Irish have not reached the NCAA finals since 1966, but they are hoping that can change this year, Walker said.

“I think that more than anything, [we] three seniors have never been to the national championship finals and that’s something that at the start of the year we really set as a goal for us and for the team,” Walker said. “I think that the three of us really have that in our minds right now and that’s something that we really want to accomplish.”

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu