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Men’s Golf: Irish gain experience in summer tournaments

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, August 21, 2012

For college golfers there is the season, and then there is the season that is not the season. The season, of course, contains the college schedule. However, the season that is not the season is no less important.

It is during this summer season that much of the Notre Dame squad gains experience playing against top competition and develops the ability to deal with pressure and prepares for the collegiate schedule.

“They are coming to school almost ready to go,” Irish coach Jim Kubinski said. “It’s one of the reasons we can come in and start the first day and travel within a week or two.”
Recognizing that matches played outside of the college schedule are an important part of a competitive schedule, Kubinski said he works with his golfers to plan offseason events.

“A lot of times we will sit down in the spring, when our season is over here, and almost map out a schedule,” he said. “The guys actually do a pretty good job coming up with events they would like to play in on their own. But essentially, we will just keep an eye on them, they will update me and I even had the chance to attend a couple [of events].”

Irish junior Niall Platt played through a successful offseason this year, winning the SCGA Match Play Championship in August and earning three other top-10 finishes over the summer.

“I practiced a lot. Mainly I just got to play a lot of competition this summer,” Platt said. “I had a really busy schedule and that got me prepared for later tournaments.
“[The win gave me] probably just confidence – knowing that I can compete with the best college players. I wasn’t totally sure about that for the last couple of years but this summer definitely made it seem … more possible.”

As they prepare to head into the 2012-13 season, Platt will be one of many Irish golfers expected to step up in the absence of three graduated seniors – Tom Usher, Chris Walker and 2012 PING and Golfweek Honorable Mention All-American Max Scodro, who owned the best stroke average in school history at 73.25.

“Max, of course, had that huge senior year … so that is obviously a big void,” Kubinski said. “Tom won a tournament for us … and Chris was in our lineup for about three and a half years. But I think it’s really exciting because these [remaining] guys were recruited to play for us. They haven’t had that chance yet because of the older players that were here but they are really excited and I think we are going to see some good things.”

As the Irish aim to replicate the production of last year’s team, what their young golfers did during the offseason becomes especially important, Kubinski said.

“For a lot of the guys it is important to make up maybe for some experience that they did not get the last year or two as our lineup was pretty much set,” he said. “Essentially all of the tournaments they are playing [over the summer] are very similar to college tournaments in that most of the field is Division I college players at the vast majority of these events.”

For Scodro, who recently won the 2012 Illinois Open for his second state open championship of the summer, offseason tournaments represented a valuable component to his college success.

“It just gives you more experience,” he said. “It keeps you sharp during the offseason, playing in competitive events. You know you are going to play against really good competition so it’s important.”

It is the competitive aspect of offseason tournaments and matches that gives such significant value to the events, Kubinski said.

“A lot of people don’t realize that playing golf, going out for that casual round, whether it is with teammates or friends or just posting scores, there is such a huge difference between that and the tournament round, the competitive rounds,” he said. “Just the expectations, the pressure, the things that mount that, when you are [playing] for the first time as a team, they can really get the better of you. Having played so much over the summer against that strong competition and in those situations, I think it … really helps us prepare.”

The Irish begin their season on Sept. 15 with the Tar Heel Intercollegiate in Chapel Hill, N.C.