Irish depend on new leaders as season begins
Kit Loughran | Tuesday, August 25, 2015
The Irish are set to tee off their 2015 season at the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge at Warren Golf Course on Sunday.
Notre Dame takes to the green again after finishing 11th at the ACC Championship in April where the Irish posted a three-day total of 911 (303-305-303) at the Old North State Club in New London, North Carolina. With a squad full of young energy, Irish head coach James Kubinski said his team is ready to pick up where it left off.
“We’re looking to get back to where we feel we should be,” Kubinski said. “Last year we saw several young players gain experience.”
The young players’ experiences is what will push the Irish this season, as Patrick Grahek, David Lowe and Tyler Wingo graduated in May. Kubinski said he’s excited to see where this emerging leadership will take his team.
“The biggest thing we missed last year was leadership within our locker room,” he said. “We need that to return.
“Coaches set expectations and provide accountability but cannot be successful without team leaders stepping up to echo their voice. We’re excited to see more leadership, from various players, develop this season.”
Part of last season’s starting lineup, rising juniors Matt Rushton, Blake Barens and Liam Cox, along with seniors Cory Sciupider and Zach Toste, will spearhead the development of this new leadership.
“We need to see those young players who competed last season come back this year having learned from their experiences a year ago,” Kubinski said. “Most every player, in any sport, will say they learned from competing.
“They really haven’t learned, though, until they apply the lessons. We want to see our guys applying lessons. In doing so, they’re talented enough to enjoy success this season.”
Barens was the highest finisher for the Irish at the ACC Championship, closing the tournament in a three-way tie for 43rd place with a three-day total of 227 (77-76-74), while Rushton and Sciupider tied for 46th. Rushton led the Irish last season with the best stroke average, finishing with two top-five finishes, two top-10 finishes and five top-25 finishes.
The Irish return to action with two seniors, three juniors and two sophomores, meaning the three incoming freshmen now compose a sizable part of the Notre Dame roster: Ben Albin, Kevin Conners and Miguel Delgado.
“I think our three freshmen have added significant depth to our program,” Kubinski said. “They’re battle-tested coming in.
“They give us more options in terms of our lineup and will increase the competition level every day in practice.”
These fresh faces have helped rejuvenate the Irish, Kubinski said.
“There’s a much better energy this season,” Kubinski said. “Our players are very much invested in our team and are excited to bring us back to the NCAA dance, similar to our 2011 and 2012 teams.
“We have a locker room of team-first guys this year, which can’t be underestimated. To be successful at this level, given how strong the competition level now is, players must match or exceed the investment level of our competition. We have players who are doing so, which is exciting.”
The revamped Irish squad will initiate the 2015 season as hosts of the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge at the Warren Golf Course this weekend. The Irish took home the trophy at last year’s Kickoff Challenge to start the 2014-15 season with a team victory over IUPUI and Ball State.
Once again this tournament will ease the Irish into tournament play and test their cohesion as the players combine their individual preparations from this summer, Kubinski said.
“Most of our guys went out and competed, across the country and even in other countries [this summer],” Kubinski said. “There is no substitute for competition. Casual golf doesn’t stir the emotions as tournaments do. I’m very pleased with the number of players who took it upon themselves to seek competition the last few months.”
Notre Dame begins its 2015 season as hosts of the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge at the Warren Golf Course on Sunday.