Notre Dame looks to gain momentum at home event
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, October 6, 2016
Looking to rebound from a disappointing finish in its last event, Notre Dame will take the course again next week as it hosts the 11th annual Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic.
After struggling at the Georgia State Maui Jim Intercollegiate, finishing 14th in the 16-team field, the Irish have placed an emphasis on improving their mental games. According to Irish head coach Jim Kubinski, consistency and mental toughness will be keys going forward.
“As a team though, I think the biggest thing we’re looking to improve upon from Arizona is in developing our mental approach,” Kubinski said. “We’re a great team when everything is going well, as we’ve proven in stretches. We’re now working to stabilize those rounds when a few players are just that little bit off and we turn a bogey or two into three and four just from pressing a bit and not staying as patient as we’re capable of being.”
On top of being the hosts of the Fighting Irish Classic, the Irish have the advantage that they have already competed in a tournament at home this season in the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge. Kubinski noted that the course will have a similar setup to the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge, although he expects the course condition to be improved and is excited that the Irish will be taking on a full field at home.
“We had 21 players, I believe, competing on Sept. 3,” Kubinski said. “We’ll have 87 players this week. The course will be set up similarly though, with the exception of No. 18 being played as a Par 3. We’ve begun a construction project on that hole, with the goal of reducing any flood damage from Juday Creek in the years ahead. The greens should be excellent, much improved from Sept. 3, as we were coming off an August aerification at that point. We’re excited to offer a fantastic collegiate golf venue to all teams this week.”
The Irish are on a winning streak at Warren Golf Course, having not lost an event at home in over a year. The Irish tied for the win at the Fighting Irish Classic last year, with current senior Blake Barens coming in tied for second individually. Kubinski has high hopes that this streak will continue this week, as so many of his players have been posting low numbers at the course throughout the year.
“We’ve not lost on our home course in 14 months, starting with a win at last year’s FIGC and followed by wins at both our Battle at the Warren in April and our recent Kick Off Challenge, so our team is very comfortable and confident at home,” Kubinski said. “We certainly understand where we need to hit it, so it just comes down to execution. That clarity of plan certainly helps. We’ve had so many players playing well on our Warren that no one, specifically, is a favorite. I think all of our guys have the ability to post a strong finish. That’s what makes this weekend fun.”
Kubinski is also excited by the field that will be taking part in the event. According to him, the nationwide representation early in the season will provide additional intrigue.
“It’s such an eclectic field,” Kubinski said. “We have so many conferences represented this week, from coast to coast. We go from D.C., through the Midwest, to Texas and on out to the Mountain and Pacific time zones with our field. We have private schools and state schools. Just great representation. It’s early in the season though, so I think all of the teams competing are looking at this week as an opportunity to post a strong finish.”
Notre Dame is feeling confident going into this week’s home tournament, especially considering its strong start to the season. Kubinski believes that with the right mental adjustments, his team will be able to get back into the groove it was in before its last event in Arizona.
“The takeaway from Arizona is our need to improve our ability to post a solid score when faced with some adversity,” Kubinski said. “When we’ve been on a roll, winning the Kickoff with a school record 36-hole total or leading halfway through in San Francisco at four-under-par, we’ve exhibited elite-level golf. For us right now, it’s just about growing a bit. We have to learn to stay patient and make good decisions after a bogey or two, rather than press a bit and play overly aggressive shots.”
Aside from the opportunities the Fighting Irish Classic creates for Notre Dame in terms of golf, Kubinski is thrilled to have the opportunity to host the tournament and is excited for the environment it will create.
“We’re excited for the opportunity this week, to regain some of our initial momentum,” Kubinski said. “We love being at home, on our campus, representing our university. This is a week we welcome each year for the opportunity it presents. It’s special to play in front of family and friends and wear the ND logo on our chests.”
The Irish will tee off this coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Warren Golf Course.