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Men’s Golf: Irish shoot for top five in Minnesota

Fran Tolan | Friday, September 15, 2006

Last season, after starting slowly in the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn., the Irish stormed back to finish fifth in the tournament. This year, the Irish will look for a similar, or better, result.

“To finish in the top 5 or 6 would be nice,” head coach Jim Kubinski said. “It would give us some good wins and move us up a bit in the rankings.”

The Irish will have to come out firing if they hope to finish high in a twelve-team field that includes host No. 15 Minnesota and strong competition in Michigan State, Stanford, Indiana, Ohio State, SMU and Northwestern teams. Saturday’s opening round at the Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata will mark Notre Dame’s first competitive play of the season, so the Irish are not certain about what to anticipate.

“We aren’t that experienced [as a team] so we can’t have really high expectations,” senior co-captain Cole Isban said. “At the same time, we realize that we’re a good team.”

Kubinski echoed these sentiments.

“I know we’re going to be competitive,” he said. “It’s just hard to tell at what level our play will be.”

The Irish will quickly find out where they stand relative to their opponents, which include Finland’s national team. Two of the tournament’s three rounds are to be held on Saturday so there is a premium on getting a strong start.

“Last year, we had a bad first round then played really well to get back into the pack,” Kubinski said. “Hopefully, we can start off [Saturday] with the same kind of momentum we finished with last year.”

The Irish are also hoping to use this tournament as a stepping stone for improvement.

“I definitely feel like we’re going to keep getting better as the year goes on,” said Kubinski. “Some of the guys have been playing a lot better lately.”

Freshman Doug Fortner played well enough over the past several weeks to earn a spot in Notre Dame’s top-five, allowing him to travel with the team to Minnesota. He and Isban will be joined by senior Adam Gifford, junior Mike King and sophomore Josh Sandman in representing the Irish this weekend.

As Notre Dame’s top golfer, Isban said that he is hoping to win this event, but he said that he would be happy with a top-10 result.

“You can never complain about finishing in the top-10,” the senior said. “A bunch of top-10 [scores] can make you an All-American.”