Sep 8, 2013
INDEPENDENCE, Minn. - With three members of the team's starting lineup making their first career collegiate tournament appearance, chances were that the University of Notre Dame men's golf team would rely heavily on its freshman class at the University of Minnesota Gopher Invitational. Irish newcomer Matt Rushton separated himself from the pack, turning in a brilliant opening 36 holes Sunday on the first day of the tournament at the Windsong Farm Golf Club.
Rushton birdied a total of seven holes in his Notre Dame debut to card a two-round score of 140 (67-73, -2) to tie for fifth place overall. Rushton's performance led the Irish to a tie for seventh place (289-292-581) in the team competition entering Monday's final round.
"Matt did a fantastic job today," Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski said. "He's just three shots back in his first collegiate tournament. He played well from tee to green in both rounds, and did a great job in staying focused and very patient."
Rushton birdied the par-5 12th hole, his third of the day after starting on the back nine, to pull his first round back to even par. He followed with six straight pars to make the turn at even par (36).
The Cape Town, South Africa native, made his mark during the middle of the front side, birdieing holes four, five, six and seven to claim a share of the tournament lead at four-under par. Mixed in the birdie barrage was matching scores of two at the par-3 fourth and seventh holes. A pair of pars at the final two holes brought Rushton home in 32 (-4) to cap an opening round 67.
Rushton bounced back from a one-over 37 on his first nine during round two with his second birdie of the tournament on the 433-yard sixth hole to pull to level par. A double bogey at the 602-yard ninth hole was a rare blemish for the Irish freshman on the day, giving him a matching nine of one-over par 36 to close with a 73 (+2) in difficult scoring conditions.
"Windsong Farm is a strong test, especially with a good wind this morning," Kubinski said. "We had 500 yard par-4's playing into the wind. The hole locations were near some edges and the greens were fast. Both Matt and Niall played superbly to lead our team and to give themselves a chance individually tomorrow."
Senior captain Niall Platt was the second Notre Dame player to break into the top 10, carding identical scores of even par 71 to share 10th place (71-71-142). Platt registered five birdies during his first two rounds, and navigated the Windsong Farm par-5's in two-under par.
Sophomore Cory Sciupider followed Platt on the leaderboard in a tie for 30th (73-75-148, +6), while freshman Liam Cox made a pair of birdies during his second 18 to post a 151 total (78-73, tie for 41st place). Fellow freshman Blake Barens rebounded nicely during his afternoon round, shaving eight strokes off his morning total with an incoming 75 (83-75-158) for solo 60th place.
"I'm excited about this team," Kubinski said. "Through 27 holes today we were in third, just four or five shots off the lead, with four underclassmen in our starting five. We dropped a few coming in, but with a good round tomorrow and with more wind in the forecast, we could move up quite a bit."
Notre Dame opens the third and final round of the Gopher Invitational early on Monday, with the first Irish player set to tee off at 7:45 a.m. (ET).
Gopher Invitational-Windsong Farm Golf Club-Par-71, 7,152 Yds.
TOP-FIVE TEAMS (After Round 2): 1. New Mexico 280-285-565, -3; 2. Kent State 289-279-568, E; 3. California 291-281-572, +4; 4. Baylor 278-295-573, +5; 5. Iowa State 295-281-576, +8; T7. Notre Dame 289-292-581, +13.
TOP-FIVE INDIVIDUALS (After Round 2): T1. Corey Connors (Kent State) 71-66-137, -5; T1. Nick Voke (Iowa State) 70-67-137, -5; 3. Gavin Green (New Mexico) 68-70-138, -4; 4. Brandon Hagy (California) 70-69-139, -3; T5. Matt Rushton (Notre Dame) 67-73-140, -2; T5. Jerry Ruiz (Baylor) 65-75-140, -2; T10. Niall Platt (Notre Dame) 71-71-142, E.
NOTRE DAME INDIVIDUALS (After Round 2): T5. Matt Rushton 67-73-140, -2; T10. Niall Platt 71-71-142, E; T30. Cory Sciupider 73-75-148, +6; T41. Liam Cox 78-73-151, +9; 60. Blake Barens 83-75-158, +16.
-- Tony Jones, Athletic Media Relations Assistant