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Men’s Golf: Baldwin leads team in opener

Joe Quinn | Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Notre Dame kicked off the spring season with a fifth-place finish in the Lexus Naples Intercollegiate Invitational in Naples, Fla. Tuesday.

The Irish picked up where they left off last fall behind a record-tying performance by senior Mark Baldwin and strong showings by junior Cole Isban and sophomore Mark King.

This was the fifth top-six finish by the Irish in six tournaments. The only time Notre Dame didn’t finish in the top six was a disqualification in the CordeValle Invitational Oct. 31. It is also Notre Dame’s eighth top-six finish in 11 tournaments under coach Jim Kubinski.

Tuesday’s tournament, however, belonged to the tri-captain Baldwin. Dedicating this tournament to his father, who passed away during Christmas break, Baldwin shot a six-under par 210 (72-69-69), tying his career low and giving him the second-best three rounds in Notre Dame history.

Baldwin’s score was good enough to put him in a fourth place tie in Naples. But for the Irish senior, the weekend was more important than a golf tournament.

“It was a test of faith,” Baldwin said. “When facing adversity, I just had to have faith in my ability to turn things around very quickly, and that’s what I did.”

Baldwin turned things around just about as fast as anyone in the tournament.

Through seven holes in Monday’s first round, he was playing near-bogey golf, shooting five-over par.

“If I had just played even over the first seven holes, I would have won the tournament,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin settled down after that and played solid golf. His recovery was important given his desire to play the tournament in remembrance of his father.

“I dedicated this tournament to my dad,” he said. “He passed away over Christmas and this would have been his birthday.”

With that on his mind, Baldwin gave his father a birthday present he would have been proud of.

“I guess his birthday present was the 12 birdies,” said Baldwin, who is entering his forth and final season for the Irish.

If Baldwin has it his way, he’ll be able to dedicate a bit more than 12 birdies to his dad later this spring.

“We, as a team, obviously want to reach the ultimate goal – the National Championship,” Baldwin said. “This was just the beginning of our championship run.”

Kubinski was equally optimistic about the upcoming season. While he was able to pinpoint a few negatives from the tournament such as Notre Dame’s decision-making and bogies throughout the round, Kubinski feels all the Irish need is just to get the rust from the long winter off.

“I think we just need to get a few tournaments under our belt,” Kubinski said. “By the time the Big East Championships roll around, we’ll be feeling a lot better about how we’re playing.”