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Men’s Golf: Irish kick off season at Gopher Invitational

A. J. Godeaux | Thursday, September 5, 2013

Notre Dame will step up to the tee for the first time this season when it travels to Independence, Minn., for the Gopher Invitational, a two-day tournament hosted by the University of Minnesota.

The tournament, now in its ninth year, features an impressive field, including No. 1 Cal, which returns to defend the 2012 title. The Bears led wire-to-wire, ultimately defeating SMU by 14 strokes. The Big Ten is well represented, with Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota in the 12-team field. The Irish return for the first time in two years after not participating in the tournament last year.

Irish coach Jim Kubinski said the team is not focused on the strong competition but instead on simply getting the season started on the right foot.

“We play a sport where we can’t control our competition,” Kubinski said. “Instead, we want to come out and set a positive tone for the season,” Kubinski said. “To do that, we need to exhibit all the mental characteristics to be successful, by staying positive regardless of result, and keep moving forward throughout the round.”

Kubinski said he also wants his team to play without stress, adding that they need to “commit to shots and don’t place too much emphasis on their consequences.”

This year’s team looks very different than the one that competed at the 2011 Invitational, with three freshmen — Blake Barens, Liam Cox and Matthew Rushton – in the starting five, something Kubinski couldn’t recall happening in his nine previous years at the helm. Nevertheless, Kubinski seems confident in the youngsters’ ability, while also raving about the other two golfers in the starting five.

“(Senior) Niall [Platt] has looked great and posted a 65 yesterday,” Kubinski said. “(Sophomore) Cory Sciupider has as high a ceiling as any player I’ve coached.

“It’s a great group of guys this year. We’re really excited to get started.”

The two-day tournament starts Sunday at Windsong Farm Golf Club.

Contact A.J. Godeaux at agodeaux@nd.edu