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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Men's Golf: Confident Irish prepare to host Gridiron Classic

Notre Dame returns home to the friendly confines of the Warren Golf Course this week, as it plays host to the eighth annual Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic Monday and Tuesday.

Irish coach Jim Kubinski said the team's confidence is high after the past week's practice.

"The boys have looked very solid in preparation this week," Kubinski said. They're striking the ball well and have their short games in good order. ... We're making strides every day."

The Irish are coming off a seventh-place finish at the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 9. Freshman Matt Rushton and Niall Platt both notched top-10 finishes, tying for sixth place at three-under-par at the event in Independence, Minn. Rushton and Platt are back in the five-man lineup this week. Freshmen Liam Cox and Blake Barens, who finished in 44th and 57th place, respectively, at the Gopher Invitational, are back in the lineup after winning their spots again in qualifying this week. 

"Great work on [Cox and Baren's] part, bouncing back from their first collegiate experience at Minnesota," Kubinksi said. "They've moved forward and stayed very confident."

Junior Tyler Wingo, who was one of two Irish golfers to compete in the US Amateur Championship this summer, replaces sophomore Cory Sciupider and rounds out the starting five. 

"Tyler's experience, both on our team and after his US Amateur entry this past August, will certainly add something," Kubinski said. "Tyler is very comfortable and very confident right now. He's developed a great deal since arriving as a freshman."

The Warren Golf Course will be set up around 7000 yards at a Par of 71, providing what Kubinski called "a very good and fair test" as he praised the tournament setup.

"Our smaller greens will test the players," Kubinski said. "Still, we might move up a short par-4 like 7 or 15, offering a drivable par-4 and scoring opportunity. But I can't say enough about the job [Warren Golf Course general mananger] John Foster and his professional staff do, along with [superintendent] Matt Cielen and his golf course crew. They're very talented at what they do."

The Irish will undoubtedly have some advantages in playing at home, according to Kubinski, but he cautioned that there can be disadvantages if the golfers aren't careful.

"You're generally very comfortable [when playing at home]," Kubinski said. "But there's sometimes a challenge in not trying too hard, as we all want to play well at home. ... There are also cases where you're accustomed to a certain wind or conditions that can change during the tournament."

Some of the notable teams joining the Irish in the Gridiron Classic are Yale, Michigan State, Georgetown, Southern Mississippi, Xavier and Houston. The Spartans won the event last season, and Houston is the 2011 champion. As with all tournaments, though, Kubinski said he is not in the least bit concerned with the competition, but instead with individual play.

"Our year-long goal, what will keep us improving, is in staying positive and developing from an emotional standpoint," Kubinski said. "We want our guys to make things easier, simplify things ... and to stay focused and very positive. That makes things easier in competition."

"I know, to a man, we're very excited for the opportunity to play at home in front of our Notre Dame community," Kubinski concluded.

The Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic runs all day Monday and Tuesday at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame.

Contact A.J. Godeaux at