ND Men’s Golf: Fantastic Four
By Conor Kelly | Tuesday, October 4, 2011
After a Big East championship and a respectable showing at the NCAA championship last year, Irish coach Jim Kubinski said his squad has the talent to make a deep run in national competition this year.
Returning the top five golfers from last season, Notre Dame draws strength from its depth and experience. That stems from the squad’s four seniors, whose presence over the last three years has helped propel the Irish to the brink of the nation’s elite.
Though Kubinski was disappointed at his team’s third place finish at the Gopher Invitational this past weekend, he said the tournament highlighted just how much potential his senior foursome of Tom Usher, Max Scodro, Chris Walker and Ryan Loughlin has.
“Three of those guys have been playing since their sophomore year and one since his freshman year,” Kubinski said. “They know what they’re doing out there, and more importantly they know what they want to do. We were crushed after finishing third the other day. Last year we might have been satisfied with that, but not these guys this year.”
Any discussion of the senior class has to start with Chicago native Max Scodro, the defending Big East individual champion. Despite Kubinski’s reluctance to label him as such, Scodro appears to be Notre Dame’s top golfer based on his early tournament results. Having played on the U.S. Amateur tour this summer, Scodro was named one of the top 50 college players to watch this season by Golf World magazine.
“Winning the Big East gave Scodro a lot of confidence,” Kubinski said. “He finished five off the lead at the Gopher Invitational last weekend, and he really didn’t play his best golf. That just shows how good he can be.”
Tom Usher and Chris Walker join Scodro at the top of the Irish line up.
Usher, who hails from Baildon, England, is attempting to come back from a wrist injury suffered while weightlifting in the spring season. Before the injury, Usher was a game changer for the Irish after he exploded onto the scene his sophomore season.
“Usher really has a chance to put together a special season,” Kubinski said. “Even though he’s recovering from injury he beat our whole team at qualifying early in the year. We know he has the big-time experience after winning the Big East as a sophomore.”
Walker is another player who has a chance to lead the Irish to a special year in 2011, Kubinski said. Though he broke into Notre Dame’s line-up during the fall of his sophomore year, Kubinski believes the Texan can raise his game to another level.
“Walker has been a steady, if not consistent player for us for a couple years,” Kubinski said. “When we recruited him, we saw him as a surefire No. 1 for us, and he has shown flashes of that. He hasn’t broken through to where we think he can go, but if he can, we’ll have a special season.”
Rounding out the foursome is walk-on Ryan Coughlin who, sitting at No. 6 or 7 on the depth chart, has a chance to make an impact for the first time this season.
“Coughlin actually tried out for the team as a sophomore, didn’t make it and returned for his junior year,” Kubinski said. “He’s a testament to what hard work can get you.”
With hard work and a little luck, Kubinski said he is confident this group of seniors could lead the Irish to a successful season.
Contact Conor Kelly at [email protected]