Irish narrowly miss out on Yestingsmeier tournament crown
Dominic Iannelli | Thursday, February 11, 2016
Notre Dame finished second this week at the Earl Yestingsmeier Match Play tournament at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club in Dade City, Florida. The event lasted two days with Notre Dame playing two rounds Monday and one round Tuesday.
In the first round, the Irish beat Ball State, then proceeded to top Toledo in the second round. Both wins were decided by tiebreakers, which are based on the combined margin of victory in the individual matches. This placed the Irish in the championship round against Eastern Michigan. However, Notre Dame came up short, losing the final round 3.5-2.5.
Despite the loss, Irish head coach Jim Kubinski said he was still proud of his team.
“I loved the fight we showed in winning two tiebreaker matches,” he said. “We just didn’t keep enough momentum in the final to get that last win. We had our eyes set on winning the tournament but the runner-up finish, grabbing two wins against only the one loss, keeps us on track.”
Juniors Matthew Rushton, Blake Barens and Liam Cox along with freshmen Miguel Delgado, Ben Albin and Kevin Conners competed for the Irish. In the first two rounds, the freshmen accounted for five out of the team’s six wins. However, the freshmen lost all their matches in the final round.
Kubinski discussed the ongoing development of the three freshmen.
“Our freshmen were brilliant in those first two matches,” he said. “In the final, they discovered areas of their physical game that need improvement. There were also a couple of mental or approach concepts to improve, especially when they trailed in their match. The thing about these guys though is that they will make the improvements. They have great desire to achieve.”
The tournament was the freshmen’s first experience in the match-play format at the collegiate level. In addition to more experience, Kubinski pointed to stamina as a potential place for improvement for the first-years.
“We competed our hearts out,” Kubinski said. “Whether our freshmen lost a little mental energy by our fourth day on the road is something for us to consider and then, if so, fix. It’s more often in losses that you’re introspective and honest enough to find areas of your game to improve. We’ll apply the lessons learned.”
Every Irish player who traveled to the tournament posted at least one win. Though Rushton and Barens lost on the first day, they were able to bounce back with wins in the final round to narrow the margin of defeat.
Kubinski said despite not winning on the first day, the two juniors still turned in good performances Monday.
“I loved that Matt and Blake, who had actually played very well the first day only to draw a player having a greater day, continued their solid play and earned final day wins,” Kubinski said.
Overall, the Irish squad started the second half of the season off with solid play all around, Kubinski said.
Kubinski highlighted the importance of the tournament for the team’s identity.
“As a team though, I saw excellent play off the tee, good putting overall and, most importantly, our team starting to develop its voice,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to see us develop a voice. Every team has one, good or bad. Ours is becoming more clear and it’s a winning voice.”
The Irish will continue to determine that voice in preparation for their next tournament, the National Invitational Tournament, which will be held at the Omni Tucson National in Tucson, Arizona, starting Feb. 28.