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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

Men's Golf: Squad boasts top seed in tourney

Notre Dame only has two days of competition scheduled over the next three months, and those two days are Saturday and Sunday at the Pine Needles Golf Course in North Carolina for "The Match Play" tournament. All but one Big East team will be competing [St. John's] and the Irish have the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

"Going into it as the No. 1 seed, the expectation is we should be able to take care of business," Irish coach Jim Kubinski said. "But it has been up-and-down this fall. If we do things we are supposed to do, I think it'll turn out well for us."

When Kubinski described this fall as "up-and-down" he was referring to Notre Dame's strong start capped off by a first-place finish at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic on Oct. 6. Since then, the Irish have finished 11th out of 13 and 15th out of 15 at The Prestige at PGA West and the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship, respectively.

"The last two weeks we got away from what makes us Notre Dame, the repetition, the preparation, discipline, and maturity," Kubinski said. "We started doing some stupid things out there — missing some putts we should make and hitting some loose shots. We are going to get back to how we play golf and how we started the season and focus on all those things that make us a good team."

The usual leaders of the Irish, seniors Josh Sandman and Doug Fortner, have been absent from the lead in the two disappointing tournaments. Sandman tied for 57th, fourth on the team, at The Prestige. Fortner's three rounds did not count toward the Irish score en route to a tie for 64th in that tournament. Sandman finished second on the team, in a tie for 45th, at the Bridgestone Championship. Fortner did not even compete at that tournament, the first lineup he has been left off of since arriving at Notre Dame.

"Doug is going back in the lineup this week, which is great," Kubinski said. "He had a good week at home getting some practice in, sorting out some issues with his swing. I think he's hungry. I expect him to play really well down in [North Carolina]."

The Irish will need Fortner at his best, along with Sandman, to compete in its first match play tournament since Kubinski's arrival.

"[The competition] is right in front of you, which is a little different," Kubinski said. "You aren't playing for total score, you are playing against someone. You are still playing the golf course, but it is more of a man-to-man match."

Kubinski said maturity and confidence would be necessary to handle the challenges that match play presents.

"The guys can't get caught up in what their opponent does," Kubinski said. "If he hits a bad shot, you can't try to play more conservatively and get off your game. The best advice is you have to play the golf course and follow your plan and trust your plan and execution will be good enough to win."

Fortunately, the Irish do have some experience with match play, amongst themselves.

"The truth is we have settled a lot of our lineups at home playing matches against each other the last few weeks," Kubinski said. "Just the fact that you go eyeball-to-eyeball with your opponent makes it more exciting."

The Irish look to finish their fall schedule on a good note, with the hopes of heading into their three-month break with some positive momentum.

"We played three good tournaments, then we had a couple where we struggled a little bit so it'd be nice to head into this three-month break with some momentum," Kubinski said.