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Men’s Golf: A new ring to ‘Enter, Sandman’

Joe Quinn | Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In a matter of just two weeks, Irish freshman Josh Sandman has gone from unknown freshman to one of the hottest golfers Notre Dame has seen in a decade.

Sandman, from Southeast Gilford High School in Greensboro, N.C., was forced to sit out the fall season due to an injured back, but in his two collegiate tournaments this spring he has shown why he was one of the top prep golfers in the nation last year.

“I was excited just to get the opportunity because I haven’t really felt 100 percent,” Sandman said. “The trainers finally cleared me to go, and it was great.”

In his first tournament of the season, the Administaff Augusta State Invitational, Sandman carded a three over-par 219, tying for 25th place in one of the nation’s most competitive fields.

“I really can’t imagine anyone playing better golf [than Josh] right now,” Irish head coach Jim Kubinski said. “With everything he’s gone through, in addition to making the transition to college, he’s just been outstanding.”

This weekend at the Boilermaker Invitational, Sandman got into a rhythm again, shooting a three under-par 69 in Sunday’s final round to finish the tournament at four-over-par 220. That was good enough for a second place tie with fellow team member Cole Isban.

“I always felt pretty confident,” Sandman said. “But I didn’t think I would make as big a splash as I did.”

In addition to dealing with his back, Sandman has also had to adjust to a new swing during the last year and a half, making his performance over the weekend all the more impressive.

“He has worked a great deal on swing changes suggested by his coach back home, along with an eye from me on occasion,” Kubinski said. “I think we really saw what Josh is capable of with that 69 on Sunday.”

In fact, the one thing that Sandman didn’t do well – putt – is the thing that Kubinski feels he’s best at now.

“Josh is a tremendous putter, he just didn’t have it [at times this week],” Kubinski said. “He’s very solid throughout the bag, but I think his strongest suit is his putting.”

Despite the obstacles of being a freshman competing against upperclassmen, Sandman has been able to hold his own. In his six rounds this year, Sandman has a 73.17 scoring average. That places him just behind senior Mark Baldwin, junior Cole Isban and senior Scott Gustafson for the team lead.

Sandman said his practice with Baldwin, Isban and Gustafson has been the main reason he came out of the gate so strong.

“We’ve all pushed each other to get better,” he said. “When we get out there [in practice], Cole and I will always play a match against the two seniors. There will always be pride on the line, and you never want to lose that.”

Notre Dame returns to action April 23 in Dade City, Fla. for the Big East Championship.

For Sandman, it will be only his third collegiate tournament.

“I don’t know what to expect right now,” Sandman said. “I feel like I can compete with anybody right now. I just have to go out there and play my best.”