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Men’s Golf: Notre Dame ends regular season with momentum

Conor Kelly | Friday, April 27, 2012

The Irish started the spring regular season with a tournament victory. With their win at the Battle at the Warren last weekend, they ended it with one as well. Now, the Irish hope to continue their winning ways as they head to the Big East tournament at the Reunion Resort Watson Course in Orlando, Fla.

After a spring of competing against the top competition in the country, the Irish will be in the unusual position of tournament favorites as they descend on the Sunshine State, Irish coach Jim Kubinski said.

“I think I’d consider us and South Florida as co-favorites going into the tournament,” Kubinski said. “I think GolfStat has us a couple spots above them, but I consider us pretty even. We’re going to have to put up good scores.”

Registering four solid scores has been an issue for the Irish all spring, with the lineup getting murky after its clear-No. 1, senior Max Scodro. Sophomore Niall Platt has shown flashes of brilliance, but it is getting four top scores that has kept the Irish from challenging top teams like Arkansas and Alabama.

“Especially after last weekend, we’re feeling very good about our team going into the tournament,” Kubinski said. “I thought our guys did a great job in cold and windy weather. It will be much nicer to be 87 and sunny in Orlando.”

In order to defend their 2011 Big East championship, the Irish will have to stave off a slew of challengers in Louisville and South Florida, amongst. In addition, Kubinski said there is always one team that steps up and challenges unexpectedly at the Big East tournament.

“It’s all about getting hot at the right time,” Kubinski said. “We’re obviously very focused on South Florida and Louisville, but there’s always someone who comes out of the woodwork.”

The Irish will return to the Reunion Watson Course, the site of February’s The Match Play tournament in which the Irish claimed the first of their two victories on the spring. The team’s added experience will be important, given the Irish need at least a second place finish to advance to NCAA tournament.

“Right now, the NCAA is looking at taking about 71 teams for the national tournament, and right now we’re sitting at about 68 or so,” Kubinski said. “We’re probably one of the last four in. I don’t know if [ESPN basketball analyst] Joe Lunardi does bracketology for collegiate golf, but we’re definitely right on the bubble. If we finish second, we may drop down a couple spots and still get in, but if we don’t finish in the top two, I don’t like our chances.”

The Irish begin the Big East championships April 29 in Orlando, Fla.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu