Team prepares for Fighting Irish Classic
Grant DelVecchio | Thursday, October 3, 2019
Thanks to back-to-back wins and a third-place finish in its first three tournaments to open up the season, Notre Dame men’s golf is riding a wave of confidence as they prepare to compete in their one and only home tournament of the year next week: the Fighting Irish Classic.
“We are feeling great, we have a lot of confidence right now, deservingly so with how we’ve performed,” said John Handrigan, the team’s head coach. “I think it’s by far the best the team has ever done in the history of the program so it’s pretty special what we’ve done so far coming off of a first, first and third place finish, and depending on what ranking you look at, we are around top 10 in the country so that stems a lot of confidence, and for our home tournament it feels pretty good to go in there with the confidence of some great performances to start the year.”
Historically in sports, teams that jump out to a hot start often regress as the season goes on and tend to lose a certain degree of vigor in terms of drive and motivation. Handrigan ssaid this won’t be an issue for this year’s Irish team.
“I know that that’s typically a concern, but we have a highly motivated team and even when they won the first tournament they weren’t content and they wanted to win the second one, and then we won the second tournament and the same thing happened for the third tournament,” Handrigan said. “You don’t always win, but they put themselves in a situation to win so that motivating mindset with our team is so strong that I don’t see them letting up. I’ve seen it in practice this week to be honest; they only get to play at home one time a year, so they’re motivated to defend their home course and play their best against some of the top teams in the country.”
The Fighting Irish Classic is an annual 54-hole tournament hosted by Notre Dame at the Warren Golf Course, and after last year’s fifth place finish, the Irish are looking to take it all this year.
The team has had several stand out golfers over these past three tournaments, specifically senior Hunter Ostrom, who finished as the runner-up in the first two tournaments and has finished in the top 10 in all three, and freshman Palmer Jackson who has had an immediate impact for this year’s Irish team. Handrigan emphasized the fact that all nine golfers have the ability to win one any day.
“We focus on the team, and the team’s not one player, so we have a really deep team this year, nine really high-quality players and even some of the guys that haven’t been in the top five are playing some great golf here when we are out on the road,” Handrigan said. “I think we have nine guys pushing each other to play some great golf, and I look forward to seeing who is gonna stem to the top at this home tournament because we have nine really high-quality players and any one of them can win at any point in time.”
This year’s Irish team is the first to win back-to-back tournament titles to start off the season featuring a field of 10 teams or more since the 1999-2000 season. Yet, Handrigan was quick to detail the coaching staff’s approach to this year hasn’t been any different than years past.
“Our message continues to stay the same for the three years that [assistant coach Scott] Gump and I have been together. We’ve continued to focus on the same things, but sometimes it takes longer to get that culture put in to place, and it has taken us three years to get there, but I’m really proud of this team because we pushed hard for those three years and obviously it’s starting to show for sure,” Handrigan said.
Handrigan continued stressing that despite the team’s strong start, their still maintaining a mentality of constant improvement.
”Like I said we’re not happy with where we are now, we’re happy but not content and we are looking for more,” he said.
Understanding that to be the best you have to beat the best, Handrigan and the rest of the Irish coaching staff have tried to develop a schedule in which their golfers are playing against the best teams on the toughest courses.
“Our philosophy on our program is to play the strongest golf courses we can against the best competition and we feel that it is going to get our players ready for the next level playing at professional golf. And we’ve done that, and we’ve really built our home tournament up as much as we can to get a strong strength of field,” Handrigan said.
“This year we’ve got the No. 1 team in the country coming with Arizona State coming from the West Coast and UNC who I believe is in the top 10 as well, so we’ve got a couple of powerhouses coming to our home course and we are playing well so it’s going to be a pretty fun dog fight along with a lot of other great teams across the country that are coming but those are probably two of the most notable.”
While the top-five players have yet to be selected for the upcoming tournament, the great thing about home tournaments is that all nine players are allowed to compete in the tournament, which makes it even more interesting to see who will step up this time for Notre Dame.
Moving forward, Handrigan was very clear about what his goals and expectations are for this year’s team; the same as they would be for a team that didn’t start off as great as this year’s team did.
“We have a pretty simple expectation and goal, and that is to win everything we play in. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a qualifying round or a tournament round or a fitness workout, we try to win everything we do and that’s where expectations are with Notre Dame golf,” he said. ”That seems to be working so far for sure, and I think we’re definitely on track and that will be our goal this week heading into our home event is to go for another victory.”