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Men’s Golf: Irish capture spot in national rankings

Andrew Gastelum | Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It has been a breakthrough year for the Irish.

For the first time in six years, Notre Dame is ranked in the top-25 in the national Golfstat poll, and the Irish rose to No. 20 for the first time since Irish coach Jim Kubinski’s first year at the helm in 2005, when he took his squad to 17th place at the NCAA Regionals.

Despite breaking into the national rankings, Kubinski sees the feat as more appealing to the players than to the coaching staff.

“I think the players pay more attention to that than I do,” Kubinski said. “They have a lot of fun with the rankings and it’s a reward for all of the work that they have put in so far this season. It shows that they are working hard.”

The sixth-year coach said the polls are computer-generated based on a variety of statistics that include head-to-head matchups, average scores and tournament finishes.

“They put together all the head-to-head statistics with the other ranked teams and the margin of victory and how the teams we have played perform against other teams around the country,” Kubinski said.

But Kubinski said he doesn’t rely on the computerized rankings to gauge the team’s performance this season since he has had a front-row seat to every shot taken on the course.

“I really don’t need the poll because I have such a good feel for how we are doing without any of the rankings,” he said. “All that the poll says is that there are 19 teams statistically ranked higher than us and we are better than the others behind us.”

To gain the top-25 ranking, the Irish have finished in the top-10 in each of their three tournaments, including a third-place finish at the season-opening Gopher Invitational in Wayata, Minn. But Kubinski tagged the Olympia Fields Invitational in Chicago as the team’s turning point as the Irish finished in eighth place, defeating No. 8 Duke, No. 20 Ohio State and No. 22 Augusta State — three teams from last season’s NCAA Final Four.

“Olympia was probably the turning point out of all the competitions because all of the guys finished the last round really well,” Kubinski said. “The level of competition there was incredible and the guys realized that they didn’t play their best and still competed with some of the best teams in the country. It made us wonder: ‘What happens when we play our best for a full three rounds?'”

Kubinski also attributed his team’s early success to the depth of his squad, which features two seniors in the starting lineup — Max Scodro and Tom Usher — and a group of sophomores behind them that serve as healthy competition.

“Anytime you have a little competition within the team it’s good for us,” he said. “It makes everyone focus more on improving and playing consistently. It wouldn’t be good to have a sense of complacency and feel comfortable in your spot without someone constantly pushing you.”

But Notre Dame’s focus remains on improving and getting into midseason form to push for an NCAA title, Kubinski said.

“It’s really a case of getting those guys back to where they need to be and going out there to fight for a postseason spot,” he said. “It took us a couple of years to go through the recruiting cycle and get the guys that we wanted in here and it’s about executing now.”