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Men’s Golf: ND slides into 7th as scores fall

Michael Blasco | Wednesday, October 1, 2008

After leading through the first round, Notre Dame stumbled to a seventh-place finish with a 17-over 869 at the Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Invitational in Pebble Beach, Calif.

The University of San Francisco cruised to a first-place finish with a 3-over 855, five strokes over second-place finisher Wisconsin at the Saint Mary’s (California)-hosted event. USF junior Domingo Jojola claimed top individual honors with a 6-under 207.

While the Irish added respectable scores of 291 and 290 to their first round 288, the scoring average plummeted from 297.81 in the opening round to 288.45 in the later rounds at the 6,639-yard Poppy Hills Golf Club, and Notre Dame simply could not keep up. Although the Irish led the field with 173 pars, they were unable to card birdies on the par fives and fell back in the field despite their consistency.

Notre Dame coach James Kubinski emphasized his confidence in his young squad, in spite of its struggles.

“They have a great deal of physical talent,” Kubinski said. “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.”

Irish junior Doug Fortner, whose first-round 69 led the field, finished tied for sixth place. He tallied scores of 70 and 73 in addition to his first-round score to end the tournament with a 1-under 212. Sophomore Jeff Chen trailed his teammate by six strokes, finishing with a 5-over 218 (74, 72, 72), good enough for 23rd overall.

Junior Carlos Santos-Ocampo and freshman Max Scodro each finished tied for 30th, shooting 6-over 219s (75, 72, 72 and 71, 76, 72, respectively). Santos-Ocampo made headlines recently for his play at the U.S. Amateur Open, becoming the first Notre Dame golfer to qualify for match play in 35 years. Scodro was a late addition to the tournament roster, making the squad on the back of his top-five finish at the John Dallio Memorial last week.

Sophomores Connor Alan-Lee and Tyler Hock rounded out the Irish effort. Alan-Lee carded an 8-over 221 (74, 73, 74) to finish 42nd overall, while Hock contributed a 12-over 225 (75, 77, 73) to finish 58th overall.

Kubinski’s young squad has stumbled in its first two tournaments, with the Irish having finished 10th in the USF Olympic Club Intercollegiate early this month, but the coach took the results in stride.

“You’re not sure what you have, or have to work on, until you start competing. I look at Ohio State’s football team barely beating Ohio at home in their first game or Applachian State at Michigan last year and it just reaffirms that thought. It’s the same here. We’ll be fine.”

The three-round score of 869 tied for the 12th lowest total in school history. Notre Dame returns to the links on Monday when it hosts the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course.