Irish men’s golf hard at work, looking to make noise in postseason
Andrew McGuinness | Friday, May 21, 2021
Even though it is a socially distanced sport by nature, playing a full season of golf during a pandemic was as different and difficult as any other sport for the Irish.
“I think challenging is an understatement,” head coach John Handrigan said when asked about the challenges of the season. “It was a difficult year just because you didn’t know what was gonna happen next.”
Like most sports teams, the Irish men’s golf team dealt with COVID protocols and contact tracing all-season long. They dealt with missing players for tournaments. Ten months separated their final event before COVID (March 3, 2020) to their first tournament this season (Jan. 17-19, 2021). “As a team, we just made a goal to embrace everything that comes our way, and accept it, and do our best to move on from it,” Handrigan said.
Handrigan spoke very highly of his team, and with good reason. After a couple of middle-of-the-pack finishes to start the year, the Irish caught fire. Notre Dame strung together a trio of consecutive top-three finishes from March 9 to April 10, topping out with second-place finishes in the Michigan State Invite and Stitch Intercollegiate at N.C. State. They also placed third in the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational.
Asked about how the team improved this year, Handrigan said, “Our team is not afraid to (shoot) low. Sometimes in golf, people are content with scores around par. Some of our guys shot some really low numbers this year.” The stats certainly back that up. Five ND golfers — senior Davis Chatfield, sophomore Palmer Jackson, freshman Tucker Clark, junior Taichi Kho, and junior Andrew O’Leary — had season lows of 67 or better. Chatfield (-4), Jackson (-1), and Clark (-1) ended the regular season averaging below par.
By its nature, golf is an individual sport. Yet the Irish came together on and off the links all season long, pushing each other to do their best. “The mental toughness and handling adversity on our team has improved dramatically this year. We have a team now that push each other every single day. They just don’t take days off,” Handrigan said.
The Irish have made consistent progress since Handrigan arrived from the University of Florida in July 2017, and it’s that dedication to hard work and consistency that has been a huge why. “I know that’s kind of a cliche, but I don’t think people really know what hard work is until you really apply it and enforce it” Handrigan said. The Irish have done that in spades all season.
Of course, Notre Dame’s season is far from over if they have anything to say about it. The Irish will play in the NCAA Regionals from May 17-19, entering as the number five seed out of thirteen teams playing at Oklahoma State’s Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma. They will hope to make a run to the NCAA Championships, which will be played in Scottsdale, Arizona from May 28-31.
The future certainly looks bright for the Notre Dame men’s golf program. The Irish have a very young roster; Chatfield and Alex Jamieson are their only seniors, and more than half of the golfers on this year’s team are freshmen or sophomores. With increased mental fortitude and decreasing scores, the Irish plan to continue their upward trend for the rest of 2021 and in the years to come.