March 12, 2009
Friday-Saturday, March 13-14, 2009
Laredo Country Club
Par 72/7,125 yards
Player Ht/Wt Year Hometown Stroke Avg.
1 - Doug Fortne 6-0/170 Junior Tustin, Calif. 74.11
2 - Connor Alan-Lee 6-0/165 Sophomore Solana Beach, Calif. 74.67
3 - Dustin Zhang 5-9/150 Sophomore Calgary, Alberta 76.42
4 - Max Scodro 5-10/165 Freshman Chicago, Ill. 74.00
5 - Jeff Chen 5-11/165 Sophomore Walnut, Calif. 74.00
OR Chris Walker 6-1/140 Freshman The Woodlands, Texas 77.17
Irish Go Deep In The Heart Of Texas This Weekend
After an encouraging runner-up performance earlier this week in Puerto Rico, Notre Dame heads to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas for the second half of its spring break trip, competing in the Border Olympics, hosted by the University of Houston on Friday and Saturday at the Laredo Country Club. The Irish will be taking part in the event for the fourth time in seven years and will be part of a strong 16-team field than includes six Top 50 squads.
Notre Dame posted its second-lowest 54-hole score of the season on Wednesday, firing a 12-over par 876 (299-284-293) to finish a season-best second at the Palmas del Mar Intercollegiate in Humacao, P.R. The Irish also had all five players, plus an individual competitor, place among the top 30 in the field, the first time Notre Dame has pulled off that feat since the 2007 BIG EAST Conference Championship. What's more, the second-round score of 284 was not only a season-low mark, but also the 17th-best in school history.
For the season, the Irish have compiled a 296.44 stroke average, with five top-10 finishes in six events to date. With the loss of senior co-captain Josh Sandman for the season following back surgery (he will return for a fifth year of eligbility in 2009-10), Notre Dame has had to adjust to a younger lineup, but as their experience in Puerto Rico suggests, the Irish are starting to round into form.
Junior all-BIG EAST selection Doug Fortner (74.11 stroke average) anchors the Irish from the top spot, and is coming off a tie for fourth place at Palmas del Mar, his fourth career top-five finish. Sophomore Connor Alan-Lee (74.67) is firmly entrenched in the No. 2 position, securing that role with an 11th-place tie in Puerto Rico on the back of career-low single-round and tournament scores (68 in the final round, 220 for the event). His classmate, Dustin Zhang (76.42), tied for 26th at Palmas del Mar and shared team-high honors at the Prestige at PGA WEST (t-35th, 228, +12), while freshman Max Scodro is tied for the team lead with a 74.00 stroke average and has one tournament title to his credit (co-medalist at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship on Oct. 27-28). Sophomore Jeff Chen (74.00) battled through a 103-degree temperature during his stay in Puerto Rico and showed tremendous grit in tying for 15th place, a spot he shared with freshman (and Texas native) Chris Walker (77.17), who turned in the best tournament finish and score (222) of his brief career.
It will be a gametime decision as to whether Chen or Walker will play in the fifth position for Notre Dame, while the other golfer likely will compete in this week's tournament as an individual participant (a role Walker filled to near perfection at Palmas del Mar).
Quoting Coach Kubinski...
"The Border Olympics (along with the Schenkel next week) is one of the oldest tournaments in college golf. It's just a great event in so many ways. The hospitality and warm, friendly nature of all those involved in Laredo is pretty special. It's fun to visit an area where everyone just wants your team to enjoy their stay and play well.
"We love the golf course in Laredo. It's challenging but also a lot of fun to play. If you're playing well, birdies can be made. You have to think your way through a few holes, though. When the wind blows a bit, there are definitely some tough shots. We should have a pretty strong ball striking lineup, though. If we can figure out the Bermuda greens, we should be very, very competitive."
Dates and Times
Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Friday and the final round on Saturday, with Friday morning's action beginning with a shotgun start and the afternoon round beginning on the heels of the completion of round one. Saturday's final round tee times will be assigned based on the 36-hole tournament standings. All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.
Following The Irish
Complete results following both days of action at the Border Olympics will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com). The latest information from the tournament, including results, scheduling updates and weather delays, also will be provided on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000). Furthermore, results also will be available via the Irish ALERT text-message system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame's progress at Border Olympics through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information, visit UND.com.
The Tournament Format
A total of 16 five-man teams (80 participants, plus the possibility of some additional golfers who would be competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in Border Olympics. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four scores in the five-man lineup for each round counting toward the team total. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis do not count to the team score.
Besides tournament host Houston, as well as Notre Dame, the remaining teams in the field for Border Olympics are: Arkansas, Arkansas-Little Rock, Baylor, Houston Baptist (transitional NCAA Division I member), Lamar, Louisville, New Mexico State, New Orleans, North Texas, Rice, Texas-Arlington, Texas State, Vanderbilt and Washington State.
According to the Wednesday's newest edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches' poll, five teams in this week's tournament are either ranked or receiving votes. Arkansas is ranked 17th in the poll, while others earning votes in the latest coaches' balloting include: Lamar (eight votes; tied for 35th if the poll were extended), Louisville (three votes, 41st), Baylor (one vote, tied for 44th) and Texas-Arlington (one vote, tied for 44th).
Meanwhile, the March 8 ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that six of the top 50 teams in the nation will be on hand for Border Olympics. Leading the way is 17th-ranked Arkansas, while others in the top 50 of the Golfweek rankings are Lamar (30th), Vanderbilt (36th), Baylor (37th), Louisville (42nd) and Texas-Arlington (47th).
In addition, Wednesday's updated Golfstat rankings indicate six of this week's participants are appearing in that service's Top 50. No. 23 Arkansas will be the pace-setter for the tournament field, while Lamar (37th), Louisville (39th), Baylor (40th), Texas-Arlington (46th) and Vanderbilt (48th) also are on the first page of the rankings board.
So far this season, Notre Dame has faced five of the other teams it will see in this week's Border Olympics, going 2-4 against Arkansas (0-1), Lamar (0-1), Louisville (0-1), Rice (2-0) and Texas-Arlington (0-1). Arkansas won the Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic back on Oct. 6-7 in South Bend, finishing 48 shots ahead of Notre Dame, while Lamar placed fifth in that same event, 32 shots clear of the Irish. Notre Dame also fell by a single stroke to Texas-Arlington at the Saint Mary's (Calif.) Invitational, and by 12 shots to Louisville at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship. Notre Dame's two wins over this week's field both came at the expense of Rice, with the Irish defeating the Owls by 19 shots at the season-opening USF Olympic Club Intercollegiate, and by 25 strokes at the Prestige at PGA WEST.
The Laredo Country Club is considered one of the finest courses in the state of Texas. Built in 1983 and designed by Joe Finger, the course featured tree-lined Bermuda fairways bordered by a standard cut of rough. Water hazards come into play on at least eight holes, and numerous sand bunkers are spread throughout the course. The signature holes is No. 18, a 430-yard, par 4, requiring a tee shot up a dogleg left fairway that has a water hazard protecting the entire length of the hole, then an approach shot to a peninsula green. All of the Bermuda greens are severely undulating and fast. Another notable hole is No. 3, a 455-yard, par 4, requiring a tee shot between the water on the left and the out-of-bounds stakes on the right.
Notre Dame returns to the Border Olympics for the fourth time in seven years, having also competed in the prestigious event in 2003 (14th of 20), 2006 (8th of 16) and 2007 (6th of 15). The best team score for the Irish in those three prior appearances came in their most recent visit in 2007, when they carded a one-over par 865 en route to their best finish. That '07 outing also was notable, as Cole Isban tied the program's 54-hole scoring record with a seven-under par 209 (best-ever score with relation to par) while placing fifth in the 81-man field.
Among this week's participants for Notre Dame, junior Doug Fortner is the only Irish player who has previously played in Laredo. As a freshman in 2007, he tied for 54th place at eight-over par 224 (73-80-71).
Last Time Out: Palmas del Mar Intercollegiate
Notre Dame capped off arguably its strongest tournament performance of the 2008-09 season on Wednesday, carding a final-round 293 (+5) and moving up to finish second at the 10-team Palmas del Mar Intercollegiate in Humacao, P.R. The Irish wound up with a three-day score of 12-over par 876 (299-284-293), which ties for their second-lowest 54-hole mark of the season and the 22nd-lowest in school history. Notre Dame ended six shots back of tournament champion Virginia Commonwealth on the Flamboyan Course (par 72/6,931 yards) at the Palmas del Mar Golf Club, posting its highest tournament finish since a similar runner-up showing at last year's Irish Invitational.
Despite a difficult final round, junior Doug Fortner earned his fourth career top-five finish, sharing fourth place with VCU's Rafael Campos at one-under par 215 (71-68-76). It's the third time in six events this year that Fortner has posted team-high scoring honors, and the second time he's placed in the top 10 this season. Fortner finished four strokes behind tournament medalist Will Bowman of UNC Greensboro, who led the entire way.
Sophomore Connor Alan-Lee was Notre Dame's big mover on the final day, firing a career-low 68 (-4) to surge all the way up to an 11th-place tie at a career-best four-over par 220 (77-75-68). Alan-Lee's previous career-low round (69) had come in last spring's Irish Invitational, while his previous 54-hole tournament best had been 221 at the Saint Mary's (Calif.) Invitational back on Sept. 29-30. Alan-Lee's 11th-place finish also is the second-best of his career, topped only by a tie for 10th place at the Irish Invitational, when he competed as an individual participant.
Sophomore Jeff Chen and freshman Chris Walker closed out a solid spring opener with matching scores of 75 (+3) on Wednesday to end up sharing 15th place at six-over par 222. Chen, who battled a 103-degree temperature earlier in the tournament, shot rounds of 75-72-75 on the way to his best finish of the season and third top-15 performance of his young career. Meanwhile, Walker (73-74-75) was playing as an individual competitor and turned in his best 54-hole score and finish of the year, exceeding the 229 (+13) score and 47th-place tie he notched as an individual at the John Dallio Memorial on Sept. 21-22.
Freshman Max Scodro also shot a 75 on the final day and finished tied for 22nd place at eight-over par 224 (76-73-75). Scodro now has placed in the top 30 in four of his five college tournaments to date. At the same time, sophomore Dustin Zhang held steady on Wednesday, keeping his 26th-place tie at 10-over par 226 (80-71-75).
Senior Josh Sandman (out for the year following off-season back surgery) and junior Olavo Batista are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2008-09 season. It's the first time either man has been chosen to fill that role.
The .500 Rule
According to a rule passed by the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Committee prior to the 2007-08 season, teams must finish with a winning head-to-head record (i.e. better than .500) in order to be considered for a berth in postseason play. Notre Dame currently owns a 31-44-1 (.414) record against Division I opponents this season.
Things You Should Know About The IrishNotre Dame has won six BIG EAST Conference titles in its 13-year league affiliation, stringing together three consecutive crowns from 1995-97 and again from 2004-06. The Irish also have made 33 NCAA postseason appearances in their history (most recently in 2006 with a trip to the NCAA East Regional), winning the 1944 national title and finishing second in 1937.
Notre Dame has taken its play to new levels in recent years, posting the three single-season stroke averages in school history since head coach Jim Kubinski took over as head coach in January 2005. The Irish also have carded 11 of the top 15 tournament scores (54 holes) in program history during the Kubinski era, including a school-record 842 (-22) at the 2006 BIG EAST Championship.
Notre Dame's impressive resurgence of late has been augmented by its play against nationally-ranked opponents. In fact, since Kubinski arrived under the Golden Dome, the Irish have defeated 15 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 17 top-five tournament finishes, including three event titles (most recently the `06 BIG EAST Championship).
Kubinski himself was nominated for a place on the 2007 GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers List, after being placed into consideration by the Indiana Section of the PGA. Approximately 400-500 people are chosen annually from the 30,000 PGA professionals nationwide for a few select places on the GOLF Magazine list, whose membership includes such notables as Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Rick Smith.
Next Up: Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational (March 20-22)
The Irish will play their third tournament in less than two weeks when they travel to Statesboro, Ga., for the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational at the Forest Heights Country Club. Notre Dame will be competing in the historic event for the second consecutive year, having tied for 12th at last year's tournament. In addition to the host school, Georgia Southern, this year's tournament field will feature several high-powered schools, including Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Florida, Oklahoma and Virginia.
-- ND --