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Irish finish in last at home

Michael Blasco | Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Youthful determination and home-field advantage were not enough for the Irish this weekend.

Notre Dame’s two squads finished at the bottom of the standings of the third annual Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic at the University’s Warren Golf Course.

No. 4 Arkansas claimed first place with a 23-over 863, while Michigan State senior Randy Hutchison took home the medalist honors with an ever-par 210.

The Irish ‘A’ squad finished in fifteenth place with a 71-over 911, while the ‘B’ team finished last in the field of sixteen with a 76-over 916.

On the back of a third disappointing tournament showing, Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski is not worrying. The Irish are a young team, with no active senior players and only three juniors.

“To be successful, we’ll just need a little time for the young players to learn on the job and grow,” Kubinski said. “My job will be to build their confidence. They have a great deal of physical talent. They just need to realize and believe it. That takes time. Whether it’s fall or spring, this team will begin to show its talent level at some point this year. I’m very confident in that.”

Junior Doug Fortner, coming off a sixth-place finish at the Saint Mary’s (California) Invitational last week, led the Notre Dame effort with a plus-15 225 (75-76-74). His score was good enough to tie for 34th overall. Fortner tallied nine birdies against eighteen bogeys and two double bogeys, an inconsistent performance in stark contrast with the mostly shining play that has marked his season.

“Doug is really rounding into form,” Kubinski said. “[He] gave us an outstanding effort at Poppy Hills last week and is really becoming a top player nationally.”

Sophomore Jeff Chen trailed his teammate by a stroke, finishing 39th with a 16-over 226 (78-72-76). Fellow sophomore Connor Alan-Lee carded a 17-over 227 (76-75-75) to end up in 46th place overall, while freshman Max Scodro rebounded after a first-round 84 to finish in 78th place with a 239 (84-77-78). Sophomore Dustin Zhang rounded out the ‘A’ squad with a 240 (78-81-81), slipping to 80th.

For the Irish ‘B’ team, English import and freshman Tom Usher carded a respectable 16-over 226 (78-74-74) to tie Chen in finishing 39th overall. Junior Carlos Santos-Ocampo turned in a 20-over 230 (82-72-76, 57th), while junior Olavo Batista shot a plus-22 232 (73-79-80) to finish in 62nd.

Sophomore Tyler Hock also tallied a 232 (80-73-79), placing him alongside Santos-Ocampo in 62nd place. Freshman Chris Walker ended in 78th place, shooting a 239 (80-81-78).

Kubinski realizes the difficulties facing his young team moving forward, but is confident in its talent.

“We need to play smart golf out there, maybe beyond our experience level at this point,” Kubinski said. “We can do it, though. If we play intelligently and allow our talent to come out, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the mix.”

Notre Dame returns to action Monday morning at the Prestige Tournament in La Quinta, California. Play begins at 8:30 a.m. on the PGA West Golf Course.