March 30, 2006
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Notre Dame gets into the heart of its 2006 spring schedule this weekend when it
travels to Evans, Ga., for the Administaff Augusta State Invitational. The
first two rounds will take place Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. (ET), with the
final round scheduled to tee off Sunday at 10 a.m. (ET) from the Champions
Retreat Golf Club (par 72/7,265 yards). The tournament should be one of the
strongest of the season for the Irish, with seven top-30 teams, including five
top-25 clubs in the field.
Notre Dame continues to enjoy one of its most successful seasons ever in
2005-06, currently posting a 293.62 stroke average with five top-six finishes
and three wins over nationally-ranked opponents. The Irish also have seen two
of their tri-captains ranked among the top 100 according to the
Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, led by senior Mark Baldwin, who is ranked
at No. 78 and holds a team-best 72.57 stroke average. Senior Scott Gustafson is
ranked 92nd with a 72.86 stroke average, while junior Cole Isban (a 2005 PING
All-Midwest Region selection) isn't far behind with a 73.33 stroke average.
Quoting Coach Kubinski...
"Certainly just saying `Augusta' conjures up thoughts of championship golf and
signifies a true beginning to the new golf season for many golfers around the
country. I feel we're ready to start playing our best game. We had such a solid
and consistent fall season that would have ended with us ranked in the Top 20 if
not for an unfortunate rules situation. Augusta affords us an opportunity to
play possibly the strongest field of the year and show that we're closer to the
team we were in the Fall than the one that has played three Spring events.
"We've added our lone freshman, Josh Sandman, to the mix this weekend. Josh is
making his Notre Dame debut after a strong junior golf career and has played
very well of late. He has recovered from a nagging back ailment and looks to be
in great form. We played three qualifying rounds this past week and Josh
finished behind only Cole (Isban) and Scott (Gustafson). He is driving the ball
well and long, and he always exhibits a great short game. I think he'll add
something to the mix and, as he leans on our older players, should gain a great
deal of experience this week."
Dates and Times
Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, with the opening round teeing
off via a shotgun start at 8 a.m. (ET). The second round will begin immediately
following the conclusion of round one. Competitors will then return to the
course Sunday at 10 a.m. (ET) for the final round with preassigned tee times
based upon the 36-hole standings. Should weather delay the second round, it
would resume at 8 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.
Live scoring for this weekend's Administaff Augusta State Invitational will be
provided through the Golfstat web site (www.golfstat.com). Complete results
following each day's action also will be posted on the official Notre Dame
athletics web site (www.und.com). In addition, the latest information on the
Irish is available on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000). Callers
should select option #9, then press #2 for the latest information on the
tournament, as well as weather or scheduling delays.
The Tournament Format
A total of 15 five-man teams (75 participants, with the possibility of some
teams fielding additional golfers on an individual basis) will be participating
in the Administaff Augusta State Invitational. 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.
Aside from Notre Dame and host school Augusta State, the rest of the 15-team
field for the Border Olympics includes: Clemson, Coastal Carolina, East
Tennessee State, Georgia Southern, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina
State, South Carolina-Aiken, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech and Washington.
According to the latest GCAA/Bridgestone Top 25 poll (released Thursday), more
than half (eight) of the 14 Division I teams in this weekend's field (USC-Aiken
is a Division II entity) are either ranked or receiving votes. UCLA leads the
Top 25 list at No. 5, receiving one first-place vote in the current balloting.
Also in the mix are 10th-ranked East Tennessee State, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 15
Clemson and No. 21 Coastal Carolina. Three squads are receiving votes in the
latest coaches' survey -- Washington (56 votes, 26th), Minnesota (39 votes,
30th) and North Carolina State (eight votes, 46th).
Meanwhile, the newest ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of
Sunday night) have been compiled and 10 of the top 50 teams will be playing in
Georgia this weekend. Up front is No. 5 UCLA, followed by 11th-ranked East
Tennessee State, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 14 Clemson, 23rd-ranked Minnesota and
24th-ranked Coastal Carolina. In the second half of the top 50 are No. 27 North
Carolina State, No. 31 Washington, 47th-ranked LSU and 48th-ranked Augusta
State. Notre Dame is just outsde the top 50, currently checking in 56th.
In addition, the latest Golfstat rankings of the 2005-06 season were unveiled
Tuesday and there are 10 of this weekend's participants appearing in that
service's Top 50. UCLA tops the field at No. 5, with No. 9 East Tennessee
State, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 18 Clemson and 20th-ranked Minnesota completing
the first 25. Coastal Carolina is on the doorstep in 27th, Washington is No.
28, with North Carolina State (33rd) and LSU (45th) in the running. Notre Dame
is among several participating teams just outside the top 50 at No. 56. In
addition, USC-Aiken remains the top-ranked team in the Division II standings.
Following a successful 27-year run at Forest Hills Golf Club, this year's
Administaff Augusta State Invitational will be played at a new locale, the
Champions Retreat Golf Club (par 72/7,265 yards) in Evans, Ga. The brand-new
27-hole layout opened in 2005 and features three distinct nine-hole courses
designed by the masters of the game -- Jack Nicklaus (Bluffs Nine), Arnold
Palmer (Island Nine) and Gary Player (Creek Nine).
This weekend's tournament will utilize the Nicklaus Bluffs Nine (par 36/3,660
yards) and the Palmer Island Nine (par 36/3,605 yards). The Nicklaus layout
fits nicely into the rolling Georgia terrain, offering a variety of elevations
and doglegs to handle. Meanwhile, the Palmer course uniquely plays onto a
280-acre island bordered by the Savannah River and Little River and the
challenging tree-lined fairways provide a distinctly southern feel to the
A History Lesson
In a little more than a quarter century of existence starting in 1979, the
Administaff Augusta State Invitational has traditionally been one of the
premier stops on the spring college golf circuit. In fact, this weekend's event
will mark the sixth consecutive year that a minimum of seven top-30 clubs will
be competing. The host school Augusta State has won 11 titles in the
tournament's 27-year history, including six of the past eight crowns.
Tourney Rewind: '05 Augusta State Invitational
Notre Dame had one of its strongest outings of the 2004-05 season, battling well
to a seventh-place finish at the 18-team Augusta State Invitational on April
2-3, 2005, at the Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The Irish defeated
five ranked teams during the weekend and finished with a score of 61-over par
926 in extremely windy conditions, finishing 29 shots behind tourney champion
The top three finishers for Notre Dame at last year's ASU Invitational were
Cole Isban (tie-15th, 228), Mark Baldwin (tie-27th, 233) and Scott Gustafson
(tie-40th, 235), and thus, it's no coincidence that this trio will form the
core of the Irish lineup this weekend. In fact, Baldwin and Gustafson will be
playing in the event for the third year in a row, having tied for 18th (218)
and 35th (222), respectively, back in 2004 when Notre Dame tied for 14th place
at 892 (+28) in its first-ever visit to the tournament.
A good indication of the progress Notre Dame has made in the short time Jim
Kubinski has been head coach can be found in the team's stroke average.
Currently at 293.62, it would shatter the old school record by more than four
shots (298.29 in 1999-2000). In addition, the Irish presently have three
players with stroke averages at 74.00 or lower (min. 10 rounds) -- Mark Baldwin
(72.57), Scott Gustafson (72.86) and Cole Isban (73.33). In the 77-year history
of the Notre Dame program, the Irish have never had a trio score lower than
75.32 for an entire season (1999-2000 -- Todd Vernon at 74.18, Steve Ratay at
74.54 and Alex Kent at 75.32).
One other item to watch is Notre Dame's progress on a round-by-round basis in
each tournament. This season, the Irish are averaging a 295.57 in their opening
round before trimming that score to 293 in round two. Notre Dame has closed
strong as well, firing a 292.29 on average this season.
Last Tournament -- Border Olympics
Senior tri-captain Mark Baldwin carded a three-over par 219 (71-75-73), helping
Notre Dame finish in eighth place at the 55th annual Border Olympics, which
wrapped up on March 18 at the Laredo Country Club (par 72/7,241 yards) in
Laredo, Texas. The Irish compiled a three-round score of 24-over par 888
(293-296-299) and ended up 33 shots behind tournament winner Baylor.
Sophomore Mike King was just one shot behind Baldwin in a 21st-place tie at a
season-low four-over par 220 (75-71-74), earning his best finish of the spring
and second-best of his career as a member of the Irish travel squad (ninth at
the 2005 BIG EAST Conference Championship). Senior tri-captain Scott Gustafson
earned a share of 36th place at seven-over par 223 (75-74-74). Junior
tri-captain Cole Isban was tied for 51st place at 10-over par 226 (72-76-78).
Senior Eric Deutsch, playing his first tournament of the spring, completed the
scoring for the Irish in a deadlock for 71st place at 18-over par 234
Thumbnails On The Irish Lineup
Mark Baldwin (72.57; first on team) -- Presently ranked 78th in nation by
Golfweek ... has team-best 12 rounds of par or better this season (eight under
par), with three rounds in the 60s ... has ended up 20th or higher in 11 of past
15 events ... has seen 40 of his last 43 rounds (.930) -- and all 18 this season --
counted towards the team score (not counting 2005 CordeValle after team DQ) ...
has seven career top-10 finishes (three this year), with six of those coming in
little more than one year (Oct. 2004-present) ... two-time all-BIG EAST (2003;
2005 - medalist).
Scott Gustafson (72.86; second on team) -- 92nd-ranked player in nation by
Golfweek ... has shot eight rounds at par or better (five below par with two in
the 60s), standing third on team ... 20 of 21 rounds (.952) this year have
counted to team score ... earned share of fifth place at General Jim Hackler
Invitational (215, -1) for his ninth career top-10 finish and 14th team-leading
finish (third in school history) ... second among Irish veterans with 75.08 career
stroke average (ninth in school history) ... 2003 all-BIG EAST selection.
Cole Isban (73.33 stroke average; third on team) -- Has recorded nine rounds this
year at par or better (seven under par), with four rounds in the 60s ... owns two
top-10 finishes this season (10 career) ... has been exceptionally reliable, as
84 of his 91 collegiate rounds (.923) have counted towards the team score
(third-best percentage by Irish golfer since 1990) ... career 74.37 stroke
average is tops in school history (second: 74.43 by Charles Thurn, 1956-58) ...
2005 PING/All-Midwest Region selection (first Irish player to earn regional or
national accolades since 1980) ... two-time all-BIG EAST Conference honoree
Mike King (75.72; fifth on team) -- Has looked sharp in spring with career-low
74.67 stroke average to date ... owns three rounds under par, including one in
the 60s ... had three top-10 finishes in nine starts as a rookie, including tie
for ninth at the BIG EAST Championship.
Josh Sandman -- Freshman makes college debut this weekend ... marks the fourth
consecutive season that an Irish rookie has made the travel squad ... reached
third round of match play at last summer's North & South Amateur Championship
at Pinehurst, N.C., eventually falling to a member of this weekend's field,
USC-Aiken's Dane Burkhart by a 3 & 2 score (Burkhart was then eliminated in the
next round by another Notre Dame player, sophomore Eddie Peckels).
Next Up For The Irish
Notre Dame has little time to relax, as the Irish will venture across the state
of Indiana for the Boilermaker Invitational April 8-9 in West Lafayette, Ind,
at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex (Kampen Course). Some early schedules for
the Irish listed this event at another date, but due to scheduling changes, the
tournament has been moved to its present date. This will mark Notre Dame's 22nd
appearance in a tournament hosted by Purdue, having won the 1979 Purdue