Irish look to build on momentum in ACC championship
Kyle Barry | Friday, April 21, 2017
Notre Dame will look to build on its victory at the Battle at the Warren from last weekend and apply the momentum toward the ACC championship, which begins Friday, at Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton, South Carolina.
The Irish are coming off one of their top performances of the season, winning the Battle at the Warren by 20 strokes with a score of 577. And that did not even include the performance of sophomore Kevin Conners, who medaled at the event with a score of 1-over competing as an individual.
The victory at the Battle at the Warren marked Notre Dame’s fourth win of the season, as it had previously won at the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge, the Georgetown Invitational and the Yestingsmeier Match Play.
Notre Dame success at the ACC championship has been mixed, finishing 11th in 2015 season and 10th last season.
At the 2015 ACC championship, the Irish finished with a team score of 911. Senior Blake Barens, a sophomore at the time, was Notre Dame’s top finisher, posting a final round 2-over-par 74.
At last year’s ACC championship, the Irish finished 10th, with a total score of 883. Then-junior Matthew Rushton finished in a tie for 16th with an even-par 216 for the event. Ben Albin, currently a sophomore, finished tied for 25th after totaling a 218, while Barens placed 45th with a score of 226. Clemson would win the tournament with a 25-under 839.
Coming into the ACC championship, the Irish are ranked 11th in the conference. Irish head coach Jim Kubinski wants his golfers to focus on the task at hand, as opposed to the potential results of the tournament.
“I try not to focus on result expectations going into any tournament,” Kubinski said. “My focus is all about our preparation. Are we practicing the best way, working on the areas we need to? Does each player have a good plan to play the golf course we’re about to play? What are the less obvious things that we need to account for? These are the questions I ask myself and our players. From there, it’s just about bringing strong focus and a positive energy to each shot, which elevates execution. At that point, we can expect success.”
Conners is entering the ACC championship with a win under his belt from the Battle at the Warren last week. Conners finished with a 1-over-par 141 to claim the victory.
Barens has consistently played well this season, with his best finish coming at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic in October when he claimed medalist honors with a 9-under-par 201.
Kubinski said he is excited to see how his seniors, Barens and Rushton, as well as the rest of his squad will play at the ACC championship.
“It’ll be fun to watch our two seniors, Blake and Matt, bring their experience to this event,” Kubinski said. “Our goal, though, is to have all five guys in the mix for our team score as late into rounds as possible. Having five solid scores to choose our best four from, the college golf format, is a huge advantage over teams that will have a player or two out of the mix early on. Our guys understand that staying patient and very positive are effective ways to do this.”
Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton, South Carolina, is a private golf course that is set up as a 6,951-yard par 72 for the ACC championship. The course was designed by the late Arnold Palmer.
Kubinski said adjustments will be made in order to have success at Musgrove Mill Golf Club.
“There are some adjustments to make here, as this course is very different than our Warren,” Kubinski said. “We’ll hit fewer drivers. We’ll need to be mindful of playing shots to smart areas, especially on and around the greens. Mostly though, especially from a mental approach standpoint, it’s more about making consistent habits of the good things we’re now doing much more regularly, rather than adjusting.”
This is the first time Musgrove Mill is hosting the ACC championship, after it was held at the Old North State Club in New London, North Carolina, for the past 15 years.
The field for the 54-hole ACC championship includes seven of the country’s top-30 teams, led by No. 9 Wake Forest.
The top-seeded Demon Deacons enter the event with momentum after claiming six top-five finishes, including two wins at the Rod Myers Invitational and the General Hackler Championship.
No. 2 seed Clemson is the defending ACC champion. The Tigers had a five-event winning streak before it was snapped Saturday at the Wolfpack Spring Open in Raleigh, North Carolina.
No. 3 seed Virginia comes into the ACC championship with four regular season wins. The Cavaliers have never won the ACC championship.
The Irish will begin the ACC championship on Friday at 10 a.m. and are paired with No. 10 seed Louisville and No. 12 seed Boston College.