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Men’s Golf: Georgia tourney boasts elite field

Michael Blasco | Friday, March 20, 2009

After a grueling, 4,000 mile spring break road-trip, Notre Dame returns to the links today at the 30th Annual Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational in Statesboro, Ga., one of the premier collegiate tournaments of the season.

The elite field features six teams ranked in the top 25 among the 18 squads sparring at the 6,910-yard, par 72 Forest Heights Country Club.

The Irish are coming off consecutive top-five finishes at the Border Olympics in Laredo, Texas, and the Palmas del Mar Intercollegiate in Humacao, Puerto Rico, both last week. Junior Doug Fortner’s fourth place finish in Puerto Rico propelled the team to a second-place finish, the best of the season for Notre Dame.

Despite 4,000 miles of travel and three plane changes, the Irish put together a solid team effort to claw out a fourth-place finish in Texas.

Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski, whose team features no seniors and only four juniors, points to the maturation of the younger members of the team as the key factor in the spring season’s early success.

“We started to gain momentum at the end of the fall season,” Kubinski said. “Our results may not have seemed a clear indicator, but I started seeing things from our players, individually, that I hadn’t seen from them as college players. Our first two events over spring break are just a continuation. We’re improving with each event, regardless of scores.”

This year’s Schenkel Invitational marks the Irish’s second trip to Statesboro for the venerable tournament, and Kubinski stated that it’s one of the events he will look forward to every year.

“The Schenkel [Invitational] … is one of the oldest tournaments in college golf. It’s just a great event in so many ways,” Kubinski said. “The hospitality and warm, friendly nature of all those involved in it is pretty special.”

The tournament field will not be so welcoming. The Schenkel Invitational annually draws one of the toughest pools in collegiate golf, and this year is no different.

No. 9 Florida, No. 14 North Carolina State, No. 15 Tennessee, No. 16 South Carolina and No. 18 LSU will all compete for a shot at the tournament title, with the Gamecocks looking to defend last year’s win.

The event begins Friday morning, with 54 holes played over the three days of the tournament.