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Men’s Golf: Team runs away with fall finale

Cory Bernard | Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Irish concluded the fall portion of their schedule on Tuesday with a blowout tournament win. At the Saint Mary’s Invitational in Seaside, Calif., Notre Dame finished with a 3-under-par 861 after two days, good for a 20-stroke victory margin over second place Saint Mary’s College of California.

After the first two rounds at the Bayonet and Blackhorse Golf Club, Irish coach Jim Kubinski said that his team would focus on continuing their solid play in the final round, and also attempt to increase their lead if possible.

“I think the important thing is not to go out there worrying about winning and losing, but just to play a solid round,” he said. “We want to separate ourselves in the rankings. A win by a little margin won’t help you much. In golf, unlike in football, running up the score is a good thing. We want to run it up.”

Kubinski got both of his wishes — a solid third round and an increased gap between his squad and the Gaels — as the Irish fired a 3-over-par 291 to conclude the tournament.

Junior Tom Usher led the Irish, as a 4-under-par 212 earned him sole medalist honors for the first time in his career.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a player,” Kubinski said of last year’s Big East co-medalist. “His first round 68 was bogey-free, which is super. He even missed a few short putts. He really almost could have been in the 20s on the front nine.”

On the opposite end of the Irish scorecard was freshman Niall Platt. The first-year golfer has been one of the top performers for Notre Dame this season, but finished in a tie for 57th with a 15-over-par 231. Kubinski downplayed Platt’s struggles, chalking it up to fatigue as the freshman navigates his first semester in college.

“Trying to get through exams and then fall break, he’s not used to it,” he said. “He just got tired, that’s all it really was. I was really proud of how he did in the second round. He fought back with an eagle-birdie-birdie and scored for us which was huge.”

The team’s first-place finish at the Bayonet and Blackhorse Golf Club marked the first time in program history that the Irish have started the season with five straight finishes in the top two. Kubinski said his team has enjoyed the success and expects their efforts to be recognized nationally.

“It’s been really cool for the guys,” he said. “I expect when the newest rankings come out we’ll be in the top 25.”

Part of the impressive string of tournament finishes for the Irish was their runner-up finish at the Lone Star Invitational in San Antonio last week. Kubinski left Texas impressed with his team’s play down the stretch.

“The guys did a great job in Texas, playing extremely well down the stretch,” he said. “We honestly had a chance to win that tournament with a better first round performance. I think Chris Walker played well, his personal best score. It gave us some good momentum going into fall break and carrying over into the play in California.”

The Irish now enter into their off-season, returning to action in Florida on Feb. 10 at The Match Play.