ND still confident without No. 1 golfer
Sean Kilmer | Monday, October 12, 2015
Notre Dame will head down to Carmel, Indiana, for the next two days to compete in the Crooked Stick Invitational.
The Irish will return to the course in their first competitive action in almost a month after their last tournament, the Tar Heel Invitational, was cancelled due to Hurricane Joaquin last weekend.
Crooked Stick is a top-flight championship venue, Irish head coach James Kubinski said, and is known to most people as the site of John Daly’s victory at the 1991 PGA Championships. More recently, it hosted the 2012 BMW Championships at which Rory McIlroy took home first place.
“Crooked Stick is a major championship venue,” Kubinski said. “It’s a good test all the way around. It’s fair though. Players who execute shots will post a good score. The biggest challenge might end up being the wind in our forecast. Distance control is such a big key, especially [at Crooked Stick], that a windy day will make 74 a good score.”
Three weeks ago, the Irish tied for first at the Fighting Irish Golf Classic, and they are bringing the confidence from that result to this tournament. Junior Blake Barens finished tied for second overall, and freshmen Miguel Delgado and Ben Albin joined him in the top 10. All three improved their score in each round as the tournament progressed, and Albin finished his tournament with a 67 in his third round.
“Our team looks very confident after the win at home,” Kubinski said. “Truthfully though, our whole vibe is different this season. Regardless of any result in a given week, the leadership from our juniors and impact of our freshmen — three in our starting five this week — is palpable. Every young team will have a learning curve, but this group works very hard and loves to compete.”
The Irish are starting their sixth man this week due to an injury to junior Matthew Rushton, who usually holds down the top spot in the Notre Dame lineup. Rushton finished in a tie for 22nd at the Fighting Irish Classic. After entering final round tied for eighth, Rushton struggled and posted a 76 to finish the tournament. Despite the sizable impact of losing a top player, Kubinski said he has a lot of confidence in sophomore Thomas Steve’s ability to step up and play well.
“Well, on the surface, we’re taking our best players one to five and now starting players two to six on our team,” Kubinski said. “Not having Matt is a challenge, but our guys know Thomas is a capable player. It has to be that next-man-up mentality. We’re confident Thomas will contribute with some good scores. He’s playing well right now and looks comfortable.”
Last year, Steve started in 10 of the team’s 11 tournaments, so he already has amble tournament experience. In the ACC championships last year, he scored a 236 to finish 58th overall.
Barens is coming into the tournament off of a career-best finish at the Fighting Irish Golf Classic, so he will get the opportunity to fill out the lineup at the top spot, Kubinski said. The coach also said he is very confident about this group as a whole, and he thinks they are a special group. They will now get a chance to prove themselves without their top player.