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Men’s Golf: Notre Dame wins Big East title

Peter Steiner | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Behind a true team effort, the Irish defended their Big East title in dominating fashion, winning the team championship by 16 strokes over their next-closest opponent, Louisville.

Senior Max Scodro also took home his second consecutive Big East individual championship, while senior Chris Walker tied for third with a final round of four-under par.

The Irish entered the day with a seven-stroke lead, but more than doubled that margin on the final day of play to take home their fifth Big East championship in the last 10 years.

“We have won a few of these, but this year is pretty special because I really thought that we had one heck of a team starting the season,” Irish coach Jim Kubinski said. “We brought all of our starters back, but then throughout the year we really struggled. We had some deep valleys and not too many peaks, but I knew we were better than that.

“To watch Max win back-to-back as an individual and the team to grab that trophy today and to do it really convincingly makes it a special season for us.”

Scodro held a two-stroke lead heading into the last 18 holes.
On the third and final day, the senior played par-golf until the last two holes of the tournament. Still holding a two-stroke lead, Scodro birdied 17, but ran into trouble on 18 when his approach shot sailed past the final green. Scodro’s competition – Louisville senior Justin Dorward – parred, but the Irish veteran saved himself and the individual Big East championship with a double-bogey to finish out the round.

“Today [Max] played solidly,” Kubinski said. “He played well, but he didn’t [get] as close to the hole as he did the last two days, so he didn’t have those great birdie looks. He just made a lot of pars. Finally he broke through, which just shows the patience. A lot of younger players – and he would have been one of them a few years ago – would have been frustrated and pressed and try to make something happen, but he never did. I am so proud of him.”

While Scodro grabs the headlines with his second Big East championship, the entire Irish roster performed at a high level throughout the tournament. Four of the five Irish golfers finished in the top 10, and Notre Dame also turned in under-par team scores each day, with its lowest coming in the final round.

“The experience was shining through today because [these guys] took the ball from the first tee and really played beautifully,” Kubinski said. “One of the things we fought during the season was Max was playing well and maybe one other player, but we never had those four scores. The last three days, we had four scores everyday and pretty much five, like today. Just a fantastic team effort.”

Walker and sophomore Niall Platt led the Irish in the third round, both carding four-under par. Not only did the 68 bring Walker within two total shots of Scodro and into third place,
but Platt’s 68 also vaulted him from 23rd into the top 10.

“Today and actually the last three days, Chris got off to a good start and just kept playing that way all the way through,” Kubinski said. “He didn’t have to battle as much, which was neat. Then on the back nine, he started making birdies today and it really sealed the deal. I was with Max and I knew he was around even, but with Niall and Chris taking it to 68, it really took the heart out of Louisville.”

Junior Paul McNamara and senior Tom Usher rounded out the Irish roster. After making an important four-under contribution in the first round, McNamara struggled to start the final day, recording three bogeys through 11 holes. But the California-native fought back, finishing with birdies on
holes 13 and 14 to end in fifth place.

“[Paul is] playing beautifully and he’s thinking better on the course,” Kubinski said. “The 68 on the first round really gave us a nice boost and actually gave us a one-shot lead on the first day. He fought hard today. He was three over and maybe there were some nerves, but he settled himself, calmed himself down, made a couple of birdies coming in and got
right into that counting score as well.”

After encountering obstacles throughout his career, Usher finally takes home a Big East team championship as part of the starting Irish roster. During Usher’s sophomore year, the Irish missed the Big East team championship by one stroke
to Georgetown. Then, the senior suffered an injury in his junior year and was forced to watch as the Irish won the Big East last season.

“Tom has had his ups and downs, but he started to play well the last couple of weeks,” Kubinski said. “To see him as part of the team and get that win that he just missed the last couple of years is pretty special, because you won’t find someone who works harder than Tom anywhere. He puts in the time and I am just so proud of him.”

After taking two weeks off, the Irish will head to the NCAA tournament beginning May 11.

Contact Peter Steiner at
psteiner@nd.edu