Images of the Fighting Irish during their run to another BIG EAST title.
One of the nation's top golf teachers, Jim Kubinski completed his eighth season as head coach of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish men's golf team in 2011-12. Having assumed the post on Jan. 28, 2005, Kubinski is just the sixth head coach in the 80-year history of the Irish men's golf program. He inherited and subsequently added to a storied tradition that includes the 1944 NCAA national championship, 19 top-10 NCAA Championship finishes and 35 NCAA postseason appearances.
In his first eight seasons leading the Irish, Kubinski has won four BIG EAST Championships (2005, 2006, 2011 & 2012) and added two BIG EAST runner-up finishes (2007 & 2010). He also has helped Notre Dame to a total of 11 tournament championships and his players have collectively earned six PING All-Midwest Region honors and 21 All-BIG EAST accolades. In 2012, he helped guide Max Scodro to both the PING and Golfweek Division I All-America Honorable Mention teams, marking the first Irish golfer to receive that distinction since 1980.
It didn't take long for Kubinski to make his mark at Notre Dame. In his first tournament at the helm of the Irish, just one month after setting foot on campus, Kubinski guided Notre Dame to the championship of the 2005 NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational, winning the title on the first hole of a sudden death playoff against UNC-Wilmington. It was the first of two tournament crowns in the 2004-05 season for Notre Dame and made Kubinski the first Irish men's golf coach since 1961 to win the opening event of his career. That season, Rev. Clarence Durbin, C.S.C., led the Irish to a 23.5-6.5 dual-match win over Western Michigan.
That was the start of what has been a solid eight-year run for the Notre Dame skipper, who piloted the Irish to consecutive BIG EAST Conference titles in 2005 and 2006, and back-to-back NCAA regional appearances both years, before accomplishing the same feat again in 2011 and 2012. What's more, Notre Dame has regularly collected votes in the Golf World Top 25 coaches' poll and has risen as high as No. 12 in the Golfweek rankings (Oct. 2, 2005) under Kubinski. He has an overall record of 563-526-20 (.517).
Under Kubinski's guidance, Notre Dame has registered 38 top-five finishes, including 11 tournament titles, two of which came in sudden-death playoffs. The Irish also have carded the top-seven single-season stroke averages in school history under Kubinski, including a 291.50 in 2010-11, the best mark in program history. In addition, Notre Dame has fired 15 of the top 20 single-round scores in school history, including impressive final-round postseason efforts at the 2012 NCAA Central Regional (278, -6) and the 2006 BIG EAST Championship (school-record 272, -16). The latter score highlighted a 12-stroke comeback victory over Louisville, the second-best rally in the storied history of the Irish men's golf program, and led to Notre Dame's selection as the Golfweek National Team of the Week (May 1, 2006) for the first time in program history.
Individually, Kubinski has produced impressive results with several Irish players in a short span of time. Cole Isban became the first three-time PING All-Midwest Region selection (2005-07) in program history under Kubinski's tutelage, and graduated in May 2007 as the school record holder for single-season stroke average (72.71 in 2006-07) and career stroke average (73.76)
Josh Sandman, a 2008 PING All-Midwest Region selection and two-time all-BIG EAST pick, took up where Isban left off. Working with Kubinski, Sandman posted a 73.90 career stroke average in 111 rounds for the second best mark in program history at the time of his graduating. He also broke new ground, becoming the first Notre Dame golfer ever chosen as an individual qualifier for NCAA regional play, earning a berth in the 2008 NCAA Central Regional. He came back from injuries to play an integral role with the Irish in 2009-10. Sandman won the 2009 Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic for his first career win and graduated with four of the top-30 single season stroke averages in the Irish record books.
Doug Fortner, a 2010 graduate, also experienced great success under Kubinski's tutelage. He played 117 rounds with the Irish, carded a 74.59 career stroke average (ninth-best since 1954) and saw 102 of his rounds counted towards team scoring. As a senior, Fortner was one of four unanimous selections to the 2010 All-BIG EAST team as he became just the third player in program history to earn all-conference honors on three occasions - joining Mark Baldwin and Cole Isban in that select group. He also fired a seven-under par 64 in the opening round of the 2010 FAU Spring Break Championship to tie Baldwin for the lowest to-par round in school history.
Even though Sandman and Fortner, staples of the lineup over Notre Dame's past few seasons, have graduated, Kubinski has proved adept at restocking the Irish roster with talent. 2012 graduates Max Scodro, Chris Walker and Tom Usher became the top players for the Irish in 2010-11 and 2011-12, playing as part of the rotation together for nearly all of the two seasons. Scodro highlighted the trio, earning medalist honors at the 2011 BIG EAST Championship (212, -1) and 2012 BIG EAST Championship (210, -6) as well as earning BIG EAST Player of the Year both years, the first time any Irish golfer has received the honor.
He etched his name in the annals of the Notre Dame program, posting the lowest single-season stroke average (71.25) during the 2011-12 campaign en route to moving into first all-time on the career stroke average charts with his mark of 73.25. Additionally, Scodro tied for the most team-leading efforts in Notre Dame history with 19 while becoming the first All-American under Kubinski's guidance and first for the program in 32 years. For his stellar season, Scodro also became the first Notre Dame golfer selected to the all-BIG EAST team all four years.
Along with Scodro, Walker, Niall Platt and Paul McNamara III earned all-BIG EAST honors for the year, marking the first time since '03 that the Irish have placed four or more players on the team. The quartet played in every round for the Irish on the season.
Kubinski was nominated for the 2007 GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers List, honoring the nation's preeminent golf instructors. Previous winners of the prestigious designation include Hank Haney (former teacher for 10-time PGA Tour Player of the Year Tiger Woods), Butch Harmon (swing coach for PGA Tour great and two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson) and David Leadbetter (legendary coach for such PGA Tour luminaries and major tournament champions as Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman). After leading his team back to the NCAAs in 2011, Kubinski was selected as the BIG EAST Coach of Year for the first time in his head coaching tenure with the Irish. He repeated this honor in 2012, as the Irish pulled away for a 16-shot victory at the BIG EAST Championship (852, -12) to claim a spot in the NCAA Central Regional.
Kubinski was a three-year golf letterman and two-year team captain at Springfield (Mass.) College before graduating in 1993. A two-time all-Northeast 10 Conference selection in 1991 and 1992, he also received the Springfield College Maroon Club Award for academic and athletic achievement in 1992. His playing experience continued on the North Atlantic Tour where he tied for sixth place at the `95 Boston Open, and he also competed in the Carolinas Section PGA.
Born May 4, 1970 in Springfield, Mass., Kubinski and his wife, Sarah, live in Granger, Ind. The couple has two children. Their daughter, Kelly, was born in September of 2007 and enjoys singing the Notre Dame Victory March. They celebrated the birth of their son, James, in May 2010.