Rushton shines during spring break action
Dominic Iannelli | Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Notre Dame competed in two tournaments over spring break, the Tiger Invitational at the Grand National Lake Course in Opelika, Alabama, from March 6 – 8 and the Border Olympics at the Laredo Country Club in Laredo, Texas, on March 11 and 12.
In the Tiger Invitational, the Irish finished 15th in a field of 18 teams. However, the team had a strong performance from junior captain Matthew Rushton, who finished in 11th place individually with score of one-over par. Freshman Ben Albin also finished in the top half of the field, earning a tie for 38th place with a score of nine-over par.
Irish head coach Jim Kubinski said Rushton’s big weekend was important for both his and the team’s continued development.
“Matt has stepped up both through his play on the course and off the course with his mentoring of our younger players,” Kubinski said. “His impact is an important part of our team’s growth.”
While a 15th-place finish was not the goal for the Irish, Kubinski said a possible explanation for the team’s higher scores could be the playing conditions in the South.
“One of the things our players have traditionally been challenged by is the thin, often muddy, dormant Bermuda grass, which is common around the greens this time of year in the Southeast, that we encountered at Auburn,” Kubinski said. “It’s an area to work on for most every player, especially those who grew up playing on more Northern grasses. Our players do typically improve in this area.”
At the Border Olympics this past weekend, the Irish rebounded with a top-10 finish in another 18-team field and a final score of three-over par in the rain-shortened tournament.
Kubinski said the Irish’s improvement could be attributed to multiple factors.
“Our improvement from Auburn to Texas was probably a combination of things, the largest of which were being able to continue right on through playing and the turf conditions in Texas being much more playable,” Kubinski said.
Rushton and Albin tied at 14th place individually at three-under par, once again leading the way for Notre Dame. Kubinski said he was particular impressed with Albin’s play.
“Ben’s play has been very, very solid this semester,” Kubinski said. “His confidence keeps growing with each event. Most impressive to me is his ability to self evaluate, always looking for ways to improve, in a positive way. His efforts will definitely motivate his classmates to push forward with scores, just as [freshman] Miguel [Delgado] pushed Ben last semester.”
The Irish hope to carry over their momentum from the Border Olympics as they head to their next tournament — the Clemson Invitational — at The Cliffs at Keowee Falls course in Salem, South Carolina on April 1 – 3.
Kubinski said his team will look to continue to build on their previous performances in South Carolina.
“Clemson’s tournament will offer us an opportunity to build on that 283 in Texas,” Kubinski said. “The goal will be to get four, and then five, competitive scores each round, building on the one, two or three we’d see earlier in the season. With our juniors now providing sound leadership and our freshmen understanding what it takes, our upside is very high moving forward.”