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Irish look to overcome difficult schedule to reach new heights in 2023

| Wednesday, February 1, 2023

After coming in fifth during the 2022 ACC Championship, the Notre Dame men’s golf team is back for their spring season. Despite their success throughout the regular season, the Irish had a disappointing end, and this year they are back hungry for more.

Despite a solid fall performance, Notre Dame only checks in at 37th in the NCAA rankings. And their upcoming schedule will make improving that number quite a struggle.

Notre Dame will kick off their official spring season by traveling to Panama City Beach, FA where No. 13 Florida State University will be hosting the Watersound Invitational. The meet includes No. 17 Alabama, among other strong competitors.

Despite the challenging start of their season, the Irish managed to churn out a solid fall. In early September, the Irish hosted the Fighting Irish classic where they placed fourth, only three strokes behind No. 5 North Carolina for third.

Throughout the fall Notre Dame traveled to four other tournaments, placing top ten in all of them. That is no small feat. “We have a tough conference,” head coach John Handrigan said. “Ultimately the best in the country for college golf. So we got a lot of work towards, as far as being in the ACC.”

Four ACC schools are in the top 15. However, Handrigan’s squad is preparing hard to be ready to face this competition. The team just returned from a practice trip to Florida and will be back there this weekend to get some more time on the course.

“We’re going back this weekend, we do a lot of qualifyings when we’re down to see which players are gonna qualify and are going to get into the lineup,” Handrigan said. “We’re working hard to get ready for that. And obviously we have a great indoor facility to practice on, but there’s nothing like playing on grass. So, we get down to Florida as much as we can to prepare for that first event.”

While the official lineup for the Irish this spring still isn’t set, there is clearly lots of talent. Senior Palmer Jackson is both a captain and one of Notre Dame’s stars. Currently ranked at No. 83, Jackson is the highest-rated member of the team. Jackson holds the record for lowest career stroke average at Notre Dame with 71.25 and has helped the Irish place at multiple tournaments.

Graduate student Andrew O’Leary is another crucial member of this Irish squad. O’Leary is another captain and has proved himself both on and off the course. Having two experienced and talented golfers is a luxury for the Irish, one Handrigan does not take for granted.

“For sure our two captains are definitely by far our strongest leaders on the team,” Handrigan said about Jackson and O’Leary, “They’ve led our team for a couple years now and do an excellent job and they both have very high standards and expectations for our program. They hold our standards high to the players on our team and they’re great people… they have done a phenomenal job of illustrating what it takes to be successful for Notre Dame and Notre Dame golf.” 

The Irish captains are not alone, as the team goes ten players deep, each hoping for a long, fruitful season. Notre Dame has five official tournaments before their attempt at a postseason run. These tournaments will pit them against some of the toughest competition in the country.

“The last two years we’ve been one of the strongest teams in the conference,” Handrigan said. “And, we are going to compete to do the same thing this year.”

The Irish will fly down to have their first official tournament of the season on Feb. 19 at the Sharks Tooth Golf Club.

Contact Olivia Schatz @ [email protected]

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