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Men’s Golf: Senior captains go way back

Fran Tolan | Thursday, September 7, 2006

Notre Dame senior captains Adam Gifford and Cole Isban met when they were just eight years old and have been great friends since.

So it’s fitting that head coach Jim Kubinski named the two team co-captains.

“If there was any way we could have known about this 12 years ago, I’m not sure we would have believed it,” said Gifford, who hails from Plymouth, Ind. “We’re really looking forward to leading the team.”

The homegrown Isban, raised in South Bend, has led the team for three years. The All-America candidate has been among the squad leaders in stroke average since his sophomore year.

“I’ve just been trying to set a good example [for the other golfers] by carrying myself well on and off the course,” he said.

Isban won the first of two Irish team qualifiers Tuesday to clinch a spot on the traveling squad for the team’s first event, the Gopher Invite at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wyzata, Minn.

The Irish can take five golfers to Minnesota, and Kubinski said he is uncertain which four other players will travel.

And while Kubinski has not penciled in a definite starting lineup, he said he feels things beginning to fall into place. Kubinski anticipates that sophomore Josh Sandman, with whom Isban competed last month in the U.S. Amateur Championship, will occupy the No. 2 slot behind the senior.

Kubinski said he saw many positive signs throughout the first qualifier. He especially cited the leadership of his new captains.

“[Gifford] has shown great spirit and enthusiasm, and he’s been a good example for everyone on the team,” he said.

Isban, Kubinski said, will “probably break the school record for career tournament rounds played at some point this year.”

“I’m pretty comfortable that he’ll do a good job [as captain],” he said.

While Gifford has never matched the success of Isban, Kubinski said that could change this year.

“He had a very good summer,” Kubinski said. “I expect him to travel quite a bit this season.”

The team will leave for Minnesota next Thursday, so the next six days will determine who will travel.

“Everybody’s fighting for spots,” Gifford said. “The five guys who are playing the best get to go [to the Gopher Invite] and hopefully win the tournament.”

With such a competitive atmosphere, it’s important for the Irish to remain focused on their collective goals.

“We’ve been trying to make the transition from playing as individuals [in the summer] to playing for the greater good of the team,” Gifford said.

Sandman said that the captains have done their jobs.

“It’s been pretty competitive, and Cole and Adam have been good about getting the team together to play a lot,” Sandman said.