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Men’s Golf: Pair of victories push Notre Dame into semis

Conor Kelly | Monday, February 13, 2012

Following a fall season that saw the Irish fall short of Irish coach Jim Kubinski’s lofty expectations, the Irish coach said he was glad for the two-month break for winter — a chance to regroup and improve on facets of the game that are difficult to work on during the week in-week out grind of the fall season.

On Monday, Kubinski watched his rejuvenated squad dispatch Loyala-Chicago and Villanova in the first two rounds of The Match Play at the Reunion Resort Watson Course in Orlando, Fla. These two victories earned the Irish a spot in the semifinals of the tournament, where they will face Central Arkansas.

In the morning, the Irish took down the Ramblers in a dominating fashion (5.5-0.5) and took care of the Wildcats (4.0-2.0) in the afternoon. Seniors Chris Walker and Tom Usher, sophomore Niall Platt and freshman Tyler Wingo all recorded the maximum two points on the day to pace the Irish. Junior Max Scodro split, earning a victory against Loyola before falling victim to the match-play format and Villanova junior Michael Kania despite scoring a better stroke-play number than Kania.

“The guys looked great out there today,” Kubinski said. “For a first tournament of the year, this was a great step.”

In particular, Kubinski noted the improved irons play of Platt and the smoother strokes of Usher and Walker, players who propelled the Irish to the Big East championship in 2011.

“I think Niall [Platt] hit 25 of 29 greens today,” Kubinski said. “He looked really good. And Tom [Usher] looked better than he has in a long time.”

Scodro — whose fall season will stand as one of the best in school history — golfed well for the Irish, but it was the consistent play of Notre Dame’s other golfers that was most encouraging for an Irish team that struggled to post consistent scores in the fall.

“We played great as a team today,” Kubinski said. “But now we move on to Central Arkansas. We’ve never played with them before, and we didn’t get a chance to see them today, but we know that they’re going to grind. To get through what they had to today, they have to be grinders.”

The Irish entered The Match Play as the top-seeded team in the tournament — No. 57 according to the Golfstat poll — and did everything they could to assert themselves as the best in the field. According to Kubinski, that kind of play will need to continue if the Irish hope to defend their Big East title.

“This is a positive start for us,” Kubinski said. “This needs to continue, but anytime you’re playing decent golf in Florida in the month of February, it’s a good day.”

The Irish resume play today against Central Arkansas in Orlando at 7:30 a.m.


Contact Conor Kelly at [email protected]