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Men’s Golf: Walker leads Irish at Woodlands Tournament

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, April 4, 2012

After more than two weeks off, the Irish return to competition Monday and Tuesday at the All-American Intercollegiate at the Woodlands Course in Houston.

The tournament will be a homecoming for Irish senior Chris Walker, who grew up playing the Woodlands Course.

The Woodlands, Tex., native will headline the Irish quintet entered in the Intercollegiate, a unit that has returned to equilibrium following a period of turbulence the past few weeks. For Irish coach Jim Kubinski, it is all about finding the combination of golfers who will consistently post four strong, countable scores.

“We’re going to have the three seniors in there [Walker, Max Scodro, Tom Usher], especially with it being Walker’s home course,” Kubinski said. “Tom [Usher] just needed a rest last week. He’s been back to playing well. [Junior] Paul McNamara actually won our challenge match this week, so he’ll be in there. We just have to figure out how to post four good scores instead of two or three. That’s what we need to compete.”

One golfer Kubinski has not had to worry about this year has been Scodro. The senior recently earned the title of the Big East Golfer of the Week for the second consecutive week for his fourth-place finish at the Linger Longer Invitational in Eatonton, Ga., on March 25. The finish marked the seventh tournament this season in which Scodro finished in the top-25 individually. Scodro and sophomore Niall Platt have been entrenched as Notre Dame’s top-two for most of the year, but beyond that, the field has been less stable.

At the Linger Longer Invitational, Kubinski inserted sophomore Andrew Lane into Usher’s spot, hoping to kick-start the lineup. Lane failed to hold on to the spot, however, and Usher will return to his spot in the top five.

“We’ve just been trying to find the right combination, and I have confidence in these guys,” Kubinski said. “We’re trying to get back to how we were playing at the end of the fall season.”

The Intercollegiate will feature a number of top teams, especially hailing from the state of Texas. Baylor, Texas Tech, and host Houston will provide stiff competition for the Irish, Kubinski said.

“I’ve said to my guys a lot that it will be very tough to go into Texas and beat these teams on their home turf,” Kubinski said. “We’ll need to play very well.”

Notre Dame is currently ranked 64th in the nation, according to Golfweek magazine, well below where the Irish had hoped to find themselves, but there is still time to make up ground. With the Big East tournament less than a month away, the Irish view the Intercollegiate as an opportunity to make a statement and defend their standing as the highest-rated team in the conference.

“We’re getting down towards the end of the year,” Kubinski said. “We’d love a strong, top-5 finish here to really solidify our position going into the postseason.”

The Irish take to the course for the All-American Intercollegiate beginning April 9 in Houston.

 

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu