Irish take team and individual victories at ND Kickoff Challenge
Elizabeth Greason | Tuesday, September 6, 2016
The Irish got off to a promising start to their fall season, taking the top prize in both the team and individual portions of the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge, the 36-hole tournament that took place Saturday at Warren Golf Course.
Notre Dame handled its competition, Valparaiso and Detroit Mercy, with a 27-stroke gap between the first-place Irish and second-place Crusaders. Notre Dame was also the only team to put up a score below par, shooting an 11-under-par 557 for the tournament.
Ten Notre Dame players saw action in the Kickoff Challenge — five as individuals and five with their scores contributing to the overall team score. Irish head coach Jim Kubinski said he was most impressed with his team’s ability to fill up the top of the leaderboard.
“Looking at the board, we had, probably, nine of our 10 guys play really well, so that’s exciting,” Kubinski said. “We’ve needed depth the last couple of years, really.”
Nine of Notre Dame’s 10 players finished in the top 10 of the tournament, including freshman Hunter Ostrom, who had the top score of the contributing team scores and placed third in the individual competition with a 6-under-par 138. This depth, according to Kubinski is just as important as the first-place team finish, which will hopefully give the Irish confidence as they head into the heart of their season.
“I think it’s not only a great boost of momentum to start out a season as we head to our first travel event next week,” Kusinski said. “But I think the number of players that are playing so well, so competitively, really will have us so much sharper through the fall.”
The Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge’s individual trophy was taken home by freshman John Felitto, who was playing in his collegiate debut. Felitto impressed his coach, teammates and competitors as he walked off the 18th green in the second round of the day having shot a six-under-par 65. Senior captain Matt Rushton shook his head in disbelief after being informed of Felitto’s second round score, Rushton himself finishing the round even-par 71.
Felitto went seven under overall, shooting a 135 on the day — a two-stroke lead over his closest competitor, Valparaiso junior Zach Cutler who was the only non-Notre Dame athlete to crack the top 10. Kubinski was especially pleased by Felitto’s performance Saturday.
“I thought the 70 was a nice competitive round and a good score that I think anyone would be happy with on this golf course, but to shoot 65 this afternoon was pretty special,” Kubinski said. “I think it had to give him a lot of confidence. So I’m excited, I’m excited for what John did.”
Felitto considers the defining moment of his six-under round to be his putt to cap off the front nine, which gave him momentum coming down the back.
“I made a nice 15-footer on nine for birdie to shoot 30 on the front,” Felitto said. “That really got me going and I really knew that it was going to be a special day.”
The Irish will open the travelling portion of their season this week as they head to the University of San Francisco Club Intercollegiate, which will be played Sept. 12 and 13 at Olympic Club, a venue that has hosted multiple U.S. Opens in the past.