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Men’s Golf

Irish come in fifth in Olympic Club Intercollegiate

| Thursday, September 15, 2016

Notre Dame had a solid showing at its first full-field tournament of the season earlier this week at the San Francisco Olympic Club Intercollegiate, finishing in a tie for fifth after a disappointing final round. Two Irish athletes also made it inside the top 20 individually.

The Irish came out quickly in the first two rounds of the 54-hole event. Upon teeing off for the third and final round of the tournament, Notre Dame was poised for a top finish, entering the round in third place, with two players, seniors Matt Rushton and Blake Barens in a tie for second. Irish head coach Jim Kubinski was hoping for his players to make a strong finish, but the team hit some snags on the back nine, which prevented them from doing so.

“[I was] just looking for some good play today to move up the leaderboard,” Kubinski said. “We had a chance to do that today but lost a couple shots per player on that closing nine.”

Barens’ final round had its ups and downs, ultimately leading to his worst score of the tournament, a 5-over-par 77. He posted two birdies, but also double-bogeyed two holes. This round moved Barens from a tie for second place to a tie for 12th. Despite Barens’ less-than-ideal final round, he played a major role in Notre Dame’s blitz of birdies throughout the tournament.

Senior Blake Barens follows through on a swing during the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge on Sept. 3 at Warren Golf Course. Michael Yu | The Observer

Senior Matthew Rushton follows through on a swing during the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge on Sept. 3 at Warren Golf Course.

The Irish led the field in birdies this week, posting 47 birdies. Rushton led the Irish with 12, and Barens and sophomore Ben Albin each accumulated 10 birdies. Kubinski was pleased with his team’s ability to post low numbers and believes that it proves Notre Dame’s strength as a team.

“It was fun to make those birdies this week, especially on a historic and challenging course in the Olympic Club,” Kubinski said. “It shows our talent. We just made an error here and there, leading to some bogeys and double bogeys, that we need to clean up.”

These errors continue to revolve around Notre Dame’s short game, but Kubinski believes that they can be eliminated as the team continues to put in the work.

“[We need to] keep reducing the small errors, especially with short irons into greens,” Kubinski said. “We can do that.”

One major takeaway from the tournament is that the Irish are capable of handling a top-notch, renowned course, such as the Olympic Club. Kubinski was impressed by the course and felt that his team handled its tough set-up well.

“The course was a strong test; everything we anticipated,” Kubinski said. “[Tuesday’s] hole locations were the same as those used in the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open, which were very difficult.”

While a top-five finish may not have been what the Irish were hoping for coming into the event that had been looming on the schedule for months, Kubinski knows that it is by no means a poor start to the year.

“I think a top-five finish is a solid start,” Kubinski said. “Having had the lead about halfway through, we would have liked to have been in a better position [Tuesday] to earn a win, of course, but we’ll take some strong positives from the week.”

Rushton was Notre Dame’s top finisher on the individual leaderboard. His score of 214 put him into a three-way tie for fifth place and made him the only top-10 finisher for the Irish. Kubinski was content with Rushton’s play at the event, and he believes that the rest of his team learned important lessons from the tournament and pulled together some very solid holes to give the Irish a satisfactory result.

“I really try to avoid expectations, from a results standpoint, in general,” Kubinski said. “I prefer looking for things in our play and approach to playing that will allow us to chase down our ultimate goals. I thought our seniors played two excellent rounds and earned solid finishes on the week. I was also happy to see Ben post two good rounds and our two freshmen [Hunter Ostrom and John Felitto] learn a great deal in their first college event on the road.”

Notre Dame will take to the course next Sept. 23 in the Georgia State Maui Jim Intercollegiate, which will be hosted at the Mirabel Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a junior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident of McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is the current Sports Editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

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