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Veteran team looks to finish strong

Andrew Gastelum | Sunday, October 30, 2011

A senior-laden squad will face a monumental task when it closes out the fall season at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in Dallas Monday.

The Royal Oaks Intercollegiate, co-hosted by Baylor and SMU, poses a tough test for the defending Big East champions as the tournament features eight teams in the top 50 of the latest Golfweek rankings. Notre Dame is set to face the last two national champions (No. 36 Texas A&M and Augusta State), as well as familiar foes in No. 25 Duke, No. 29 Iowa and Houston, a task Irish coach Jim Kubinski said will require a resolute focus from his entire team.

“We try to take the same approach to every tournament, but we just try to tell the guys that they need to maintain their focus and concentration on the task at hand,” Kubinski said. “We just have to take the same mindset into the tournament and play confidently.”

Despite a strong start to kick off the year, the Irish have faced adversity in the form of inconsistent scores that have led to middle-of-the-pack finishes. At this time last year, Notre Dame finished first or second in each of its fall tournaments and returned all five starters from the previous season.

“A few guys have taken a step back in order to improve their game,” Kubinski said. “It happens to Tiger Woods all the time, where players make certain adjustments and have to work on their game so they can get better down the road. And experience will also help, too.”

Meanwhile, senior Max Scodro continues to impress, coming off his third top-10 finish of the year at the Kiawah Invitational in South Carolina on Oct. 18. The U.S. National Amateur Championship contender finished the two-day tournament at even par, tied for seventh after carding a score of 216.

Kubinski said he is looking for more consistency from the rest of his lineup to complement Scodro.

“Max is so well-rounded and confident in the way he is playing. He is working on other parts of his game too,” he said. “The rest of the guys feel they have to get it out there and play better. If we miss a shot or two, we have to focus on recovering. They are excited to get out there and support him and the team.”

According to Kubinski, the tournament provides an opportunity to close the year positively before the doldrums of winter etch a three-month gap in the golf season.

“To us, this is the halfway point,” Kubinski said. “It’s like a bye week in football except it is three months instead of a week. We have the opportunity to finish well and get some momentum before we start working on things during the break. We are only one good tournament win away from jumping into the top 25. The key is turning it around with a positive outlook.”

Notre Dame will take to the course Monday for the first two rounds of the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate.