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Men’s Golf: Veteran duo leads deep team

Eric Prister | Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Irish coach Jim Kubinski needs to make a decision that any coach would love to make – who is the top golfer on the Irish squad? Senior Doug Fortner and fifth-year senior Josh Sandman both enter the 2009-10 season looking to be the No. 1 on an Irish team who looks to be much improved this season.

“Given the experience [Fortner] gained last season playing No. 1 in our lineup and with the return of [Sandman] as a fifth-year senior, I feel we’ll have two No. 1 type players in our lineup,” Kubinski said.

A high school state champion, Sandman entered his freshman year with a nagging back injury that kept him out of the line-up at the beginning of the season. Upon his return, though, Sandman posted top-25 finishes in his first three matches, including a second place finish at the Boilermaker Invitational. He ended the season with a 73.40 stroke average, the highest ever for an Irish freshman.

Sandman also played a crucial role in Notre Dame’s Big East Championship, finishing 20th overall and sinking a birdie putt to seal the victory over Louisville in a sudden death playoff.

Sandman’s sophomore season was remarkably consistent, recording a 73.91 stroke average and having his score count in 33 of 34 rounds, the best on the team. He finished 10th at the Big East Tournament and was named to the all-Big East Conference team.

In that same season, Fortner played well in his first year. He participated in 10 tournaments, the most of any freshman that season. Along with his solid tournament performances, Fortner was one of two freshmen to shoot a hole-in-one for the Irish that season, doing so with senior Carl Santos-Ocampo in back-to-back tournaments. He finished the season with a 24th-place finish in the Big East tournament.

Coming into his junior year as the top golfer for the Irish, Sandman did not disappoint, recording a 73.39 stroke average, the sixth best in school history. In addition to once again being named to the all-Big East Conference team with a seventh place finish at the Big East Tournament, he was also selected for the PING All-Midwest Region team and was named the Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP. Sandman finished his junior year by individually qualifying for the NCAA regional tournament, the first Irish golfer ever to do so, and finished in a tie for 65th place.

Fortner also had a successful season in 2007-08, having each of his 30 rounds count for the Irish, including a second place finish in the Fightin’ Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. Along with Sandman, Fortner was named to the all-Big East Conference team, with his fourth place finish at the Big East tournament.

Poised for an outstanding senior season, Sandman tweaked an old injury and needed season-ending surgery, forcing him to watch as the Irish had a somewhat disappointing season which was capped off by a fourth place finish at the Big East tournament.

With the absence of Sandman, Fortner took over as the top player for the Irish. With two top-five finishes and a team-best scoring average of 74.24, Fortner was named to his second-straight all-Big East Conference team, which was decided for the first time by a coaches vote rather than by the leader board at the Big East tournament.

“[Fortner] has great, great talent to work with,” Kubinski said. “[He] is primed for a big year.”

Sandman made the decision to return for a fifth year, and enters the 2009-10 season as the school’s career leader in stroke average. He looks to add to his eight top-10 finishes and eight team-leading finishes, the most in school history.

Fortner also looks to have another outstanding year, and will compete with Sandman for the top spot on the Irish roster while attempting to add to his five career top-five finishes.

“We are looking forward to a great season this year. We expect to compete at a much higher level and are eager to get started,” Kubinski said.