Season Recap: Platt leads Irish to sixth at ACCs, qualifies for regionals
Kit Loughran | Friday, May 16, 2014
Like a golfer hitting a strong drive down the fairway to open a round, Notre Dame kicked off a solid 2014 campaign in its debut season as the newest members of the ACC.
The Irish found themselves not only in a new conference, but also with only one senior in their regular starting line-up. For a younger team in a new field of competition, Notre Dame’s seventh-place finish in the ACC speaks volumes for the team’s performance this season, Irish coach James Kubinski said.
Despite not making the cut for the NCAA championship, Kubinski said he was pleased the team stayed competitive.
“While we’ll miss NCAAs by 20 spots or so in the rankings, our spring play was in line with NCAA teams,” Kubinski said. “I think that fact can be attributed to both our senior leadership and the growth our younger players experienced. We showed we can play with top teams.”
Senior co-captain Niall Platt placed in the top five consistently for the Irish and anchored the team’s veteran leadership. Platt became Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer after he posted a second-place finish at the Irish Creek Collegiate on April 6.
After Notre Dame’s season ended, Platt earned an individual bid to the 2014 NCAA championship and will make his third career NCAA regional start. Platt is slated to compete at the NCAA Sugar Grove regional at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., on May 15-17.
With his 71.85 scoring average, Platt is only the second golfer in program history to be chosen as an individual competitor for an NCAA regional, joining 2010 graduate Josh Sandman.
“Niall has been the most consistent player I’ve ever been around, in score, approach and technique,” Kubinski said. “He finished second in his very first tournament at [Notre Dame] and has never let up. Niall played every single tournament for us over his four years, which is a rarity in itself. He’s also the first player I know of who counted in the team score 100 percent of the rounds played [33 of 33 this year]. It’s a testament to not only his ability, but also his emotional maturity, focus and competitiveness.”
For Platt, being able to take on the responsibility of a team captain while continuing to perform at an elite level stemmed from his ability to control his mentality on the course, he said.
“This year I was better prepared mentally to lead the team,” Platt said. “Last year, I put too much pressure on myself thinking I had to be the guy to carry the team, but this year, I took away that pressure and was able to perform to the best of my ability. Personally, I’m most proud of the way I grew mentally this year, which was something I really needed to improve moving forward.”
In addition to Platt, junior Patrick Grahek provided consistency on the course throughout the spring. Grahek improved as the season went on, lowering his scoring average to 74, second best on the team.
“Patrick has come as far these last 12 months as any player we’ve had in that type of time period,” Kubinski said. “He has made enormous gains in both his physical skills and mental toughness. The exciting thing is that he can still grow some more. His confidence is as high as it has ever been, which is so important.”
Grahek peaked at Notre Dame’s inaugural ACC championships with a top-ten finish. Following a career-low score of 67 in the final round, Grahek tied for ninth place with a combined score of seven-under-par .
“It was very exciting to finish my season off the way I did,” Grahek said. “I had been waiting for that breakout performance all year. My final round [of] 67 at the ACC Championship was one of the most fun rounds of golf I have ever played. To embrace the circumstances and the environment and play some incredible golf was a really fun experience.”
Kubinski, Platt and Grahek all agreed that the combined talent in the rising upperclassmen and the team’s increasing familiarity with the new conference indicate the Irish can build off this past season.
“I think we all saw it in ourselves and as a team that we have the potential to be a contender for the national title every year if we put our best effort into our golf,” Grahek said.