Kickoff Challenge opens fall season
Kit Loughran | Thursday, August 28, 2014
The Irish tee off their fall season at the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge on Sunday at Warren Golf Course.
A seventh-place finish in their inaugural ACC season paired with an intense summer schedule leaves Notre Dame in a position ready to return to competition, Irish coach James Kubinski said.
“This is the earliest competition we’ve ever undertaken but we just want to keep all those players who played strong summer tournament schedules on a good roll,” Kubinski said. “The goal is to avoid any transition from summer to team play by affording our guys an almost immediate opportunity to compete.”
The Irish will compete against Ball State and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The Kickoff Challenge marks the first tournament of the year for these teams as well.
Senior Zach Yinger leads the Ball State squad into this tournament with a 79.67 scoring average last season and a recent victory this July at the Miami Valley Golf Association Metropolitan Championship in Ohio. The duo of seniors Santiago Ruiz and Jose Pablo Segurola returns to the starting lineup for IUPUI. Respectively, the players held scoring averages of 75.40 and 74.52 last season.
Like the Irish, Ball State and IUPUI return only a handful of veteran golfers this season. This weekend will be important for the Irish to see the potential of their younger roster, senior Patrick Grahek said.
“This tournament provides an opportunity for the players on our team who haven’t had travel experience to show they are improving and want to be on the squad,” Grahek said. “We are trying to get some experience under our belt for the younger guys and from that gage the rest of team.”
Junior Cory Sciupider and sophomore Matt Rushton will accompany Grahek in leading the Irish on Sunday. Sciupider posted a 75.93 scoring average last season, while Rushton tallied a 74.70 average over 30 rounds in his freshman campaign. For these returning starters, as well as the underclassmen behind them, the biggest challenge this weekend is not their opponents; it’s themselves, Kubinski said.
“The biggest challenge for us this week though, given the natural excitement for any team starting a season, is to come out trusting our own games and not trying to be too good or too perfect,” Kubinski said. “We must come out playing the game as we do throughout the year.”
This competition will also challenge the team with 36 holes of competition packed into a single day.
“The 36-hole day is over 9 hours of competition, which requires extended focus and stamina,” Kubinski said. “They’ll walk and carry a golf bag over about 8 miles in total. Our guys will need to rest up the nights leading up to Sunday and do a good job of staying hydrated.”
Though the Irish will have to adjust to this style of play, they do have the advantage of competing on their home course, which Grahek said the team is looking forward to.
“We usually play a 36-hole invite in the regular schedule, so we where excited about this extra opportunity to compete, especially on our home course,” Grahek said. “We are hoping to beat these schools and are looking to start showing some domination at our home course before we host our home tournament [the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic on Sept. 28-30].”
The Irish start their 2014-2015 campaign Sunday at the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge at the Warren Golf Course.