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Men’s Golf: Notre Dame leads Gopher Invitational

Conor Kelly | Monday, September 12, 2011

After the first day of the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn., the Irish find themselves at the top of the leader board. Led by junior Paul McNamara, who sits atop the individual standings, the Irish are up four shots on Arkansas with 36 holes to go.

The first 36 holes proved to be a tale of two rounds for the Irish, as they collectively shot six-under par on their way to an eight-shot lead in the first round. In round two, a scorching back nine had to salvage a front that left much to be desired.

Overall, however, Irish coach Jim Kubinski expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance.

“We’re pretty happy with where we are at this point,” Kubinski said. “Arkansas is a good team that finished very well in NCAA’s last year. So anytime we’re beating them, it’s nice to see us playing well.”

The calling card of this experienced Irish team is its depth. While the NCAA requires him to fill out a lineup one through five, Kubinski sees his top-five as a revolving group with a number of players capable of stepping in any given event, particularly McNamara and seniors Max Scodro and Tom Usher.

“Anyone can play a great round for us,” Kubinski said. “Whether it’s Scodro, or Usher or McNamara, we feel confident that we have guys who can perform.”

Today it was McNamara’s turn.

Sinking seven birdies to go along with just three bogeys, McNamara sits at five-under par after 36 holes, one shot ahead of Iowa’s Barrett Kelpin.

“There was a stretch there where Paul finished six-under,” Kubinski said. “And it could have been seven-under if he’d sunk a four-foot birdie putt. It’s really not surprising with Paul. He’s got the whole game, he’s driving really well and his short game is on. He’s fun to watch.”

Sophomore Niall Platt finished in second for the Irish at three over par through two rounds, with Scodro, Usher and senior Chris Walker rounding out the scoring for the Irish at three, four and seven over par, respectively.

Though Sunday’s results were an encouraging sign for an Irish team that has its sights on a successful post-season, Kubinski was quick to caution his players in team meetings Sunday evening not to focus on the results of the teams around them.

“I think in the past this team has paid too much attention to how the teams around them are doing,” Kubinski said. “But now they’re older and much more mature. They realize that only what they do tomorrow matters. This is an experienced team.”

With the second round of the Gopher Invitational Monday, Notre Dame will be matched with the rest of the top-four teams in Arkansas, UNC-Charlotte and SMU as the Irish return to the course in Wayzata, Minn