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    Irish Head To Lone Star State For Aggie Invitational

    FIGHTING IRISH Junior Mark Baldwin owns a team-best 74.79 stroke average this spring, highlighted by a record-breaking 63 in the opening round of last weekend's dual match vs. #11 TCU.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Junior Mark Baldwin owns a team-best 74.79 stroke average this spring, highlighted by a record-breaking 63 in the opening round of last weekend's dual match vs. #11 TCU.
    FIGHTING IRISH

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    April 14, 2005

    Notre Dame will have one final opportunity to polish its game before the BIG EAST Championship when it takes part in the inaugural Aggie Invitational, hosted by Texas A&M Saturday and Sunday at the newly-constructed Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas.

    The Irish, who are receiving three votes in the latest coaches' poll, will confront four Top 25 teams in this weekend's tournament. Notre Dame has finished fourth or better in three of its four spring tournaments, in addition to battling toe-to-toe with No. 11 TCU in a dual match last Saturday (the Irish had a 10-shot lead after 18 holes before the Frogs rallied to win).

    Quoting Coach Kubinski
    "We're certainly excited about yet another opportunity to test ourselves against a top-rated field. Having scored some nice victories versus competition from mainly the ACC and SEC in Augusta, this weekend's event in Bryan will feature predominantly Big 12 teams of high ranking including Oklahoma State (who has spent much of the year ranked No. 1 in the country), Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor. Of course, New Mexico also is in the field, boasting one of the nation's top players in Hogan Award finalist Spencer Levin.

    "We've spent a great deal of time in practice this week tuning up our short game shots. I felt we hit the ball as well as any team in Augusta but didn't always take advantage of that fact when playing from on and around the greens. As I've consistently stated this spring, if we play to our potential, we'll have an opportunity to win on Sunday. Our guys have competed in every event thus far and I see a certain look of determination in their eyes right now. A good finish in Texas should give us added momentum for the BIG EAST Championship."

    Dates and Times
    Teams will play two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, with the opening round teeing off at 8 a.m. (CDT - the equivalent of South Bend time). The second round will begin approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the first round. Competitors will then return Sunday morning for the final round, which also will begin at 8 a.m. (CDT).

    Tournament Updates/Results
    Live scoring will be available for this tournament, courtesy of Golfstat (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 14 five-man teams (70 participants, with the possibility of some teams fielding additional golfers on an individual basis) will be participating in the Aggie Invitational. Conventional collegiate golf team scoring rules will apply, with the lowest four scores in the five-man lineup in each round counting toward the team total. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis will not count to the team total.

    The Teams
    Notre Dame's spring schedule has been loaded with strong tournaments and this weekend's Aggie Invitational should be no exception. The event features a 14-team field that includes the following squads: Baylor, Kent State, Michigan State, New Mexico, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas, Texas Tech and the host school, Texas A&M (which will field both an 'A' and 'B' team).

    As was the case at the Augusta State Invitational earlier this month, no less than 10 teams in the field are ranked or receiving votes in the latest Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA)/Bridgestone Coaches' Poll (as of April 8). Top-ranked Oklahoma State, which is currently garnering 25 of 27 first-place votes in the poll, leads the way, followed by fifth-ranked New Mexico, while No. 19 Texas and 21st-ranked Michigan State are also in the field. Six other teams are receiving votes in the latest coaches' poll - Texas Tech (14 votes; would be 31st if the poll were extended), SMU (11 votes; 33rd), Kent State (10 votes; 34th), Texas A&M (seven votes; tie-42nd), Notre Dame (three votes; tie-46th) and Oklahoma (one vote; 51st).

    This year, Notre Dame has posted a 4-11 (.267) record against the field at the Aggie Invitational, having previously faced eight of the other 12 teams in the event (excluding the Texas A&M 'B' squad). However, it should be noted that the Irish have not faced any of the teams in this weekend's Aggie Invitational during the 2005 spring season.

    Notre Dame is 2-1 against Northwestern (wins at Inverness Intercollegiate and Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview; loss at Windon Memorial Classic) and 1-0 against both SMU and Texas A&M (defeated both at Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview). Conversely, the Irish are 0-1 against New Mexico (loss at The Nelson Invitational), 0-2 vs. Michigan State (losses at Inverness Intercollegiate and Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview), Oklahoma (losses at Windon Memorial Classic and The Prestige at PGA WEST) and Texas Tech (losses at Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview and The Prestige at PGA WEST), and 0-3 vs. Kent State (losses at Inverness Intercollegiate, Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview and Windon Memorial Classic).

    The Course
    This weekend's Aggie Invitational will be played at the newly-built Traditions Golf Club (par 72/7,235 yards) in Bryan, Texas. Having opened last year as the new home for the Texas A&M golf teams, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course already ranks among the most challenging layouts in the state of Texas. Long, narrow fairways on the heavily-wooded course, along with numerous bunkers and water hazards, make the Traditions Golf Club a major test for even the most battle-hardened college team.

    Thumbnails On The Irish Lineup
    Cole Isban (75.21 spring; 74.24 overall) - Has started all 10 tournaments for the Irish this season ÂS leads team in overall stroke average and is second on team in spring average (among regulars) ÂS has four top-10 finishes this year, including three top-five showings ÂS has not placed lower than 30th in any tournament this year.

    Mark Baldwin (74.79 spring; 75.00 overall) - Owns team-best spring stroke average and is second to Isban in overall stroke average ÂS has played in eight tournament this year ÂS has a pair of top-five finishes to his credit, including medalist honors at TCU dual match ÂS shot school and Warren Golf Course-record 63 (-7) in opening round of TCU dual ÂS has ended up 20th or higher in five of his last six events (no lower than 26th in spring season).

    Greg Rodgers (76.82 spring; 76.00 overall) - Freshman who has been part of travel squad in all but one tournament this year ÂS ranks second on team behind Isban with 88.5 percent of his rounds counting to team score (23 of 26) ÂS has finished 20th or better three times this season (best was tie for 14th place at Irish Spring Invitational).

    Scott Gustafson (77.09 spring; 77.04 overall) - Junior still not 100 percent following injuries suffered in fall automobile accident ÂS 2003 all-BIG EAST pick is second among Irish veterans with 75.23 career stroke average ÂS has five career top-10 finishes, including two this year (tied for eighth at TCU dual).

    Eric Deutsch (78.00 spring; 76.22 overall) - 2004 all-BIG EAST selection has started seven events (last was Irish Spring Invitational) ÂS has three top-10 finishes this year, including a sixth-place outing at the TCU dual ÂS led all Notre Dame individuals at that match, carding a five-over par 145.

    Poll Position
    For the first time in recent memory, the Irish are receiving votes in the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA)/Bridgestone Coaches' Poll (as of April 8). Notre Dame picked up three votes in the latest balloting, which would put it in a tie for 46th place with Stanford if the poll were extended.

    One of the reasons for the Irish ascension into the poll was Notre Dame's success at the Augusta State Invitational earlier this month. In that event, the Irish placed seventh and outshot five ranked teams, including then-No. 8 Wake Forest (by a staggering 29 strokes) and 10th-ranked Southern California.

    A Record-Setting Mark
    Junior Mark Baldwin (Laconia, N.H./New Hampton Prep) set a new school and Warren Golf Course record on April 9, carding a seven-under par 63 in the first round of a 36-hole dual match against No. 11 TCU. Baldwin broke the nearly 42-year-old Irish single-round mark of 64, set by Mike O'Connell on May 4, 1963, in a quadrangular match against Northwestern, Ball State and Bellarmine (Ky.) College at Notre Dame's old Burke Memorial Golf Course.

    Baldwin also topped the previous Warren Golf Course record of 66 (-4), established by Indiana's Jeff Overton on Sept. 19, 2004 in the final round of the Notre Dame Invitational/Central Regional Preview. PGA and Champions Tour veteran Jerry Pate (the 1976 U.S. Open champion and PGA Tour Co-Player of the Year) actually shot an eight-under par 62 (30-32) at the par-70 Warren Golf Course on July 28, 2001. However, that round took place from the regulation men's tees (6,744 yards) before numerous renovations were made to the course, including the completion of the championship-length tees (7,011 yards) that Baldwin played from.

    Baldwin registered an eagle and two birdies on the front nine and went out in 31 (-4), before coming home with a 32 on the back nine (four birdies, one bogey). He actually had an opportunity to push his score even lower, three-putting for a bogey on No. 16, before rebounding with consecutive birdies to close out his historic round.

    Last Tournament - vs. TCU (dual match)
    No. 11 TCU came back from a 10-shot deficit after the morning session to defeat the Irish, 563-581 in a 36-hole dual match last Saturday at the Warren Golf Course on the Notre Dame campus. The Irish shot an opening-round 282 (+2), which was their second-lowest score of the season and tied for the third-lowest mark in school history. However, the Horned Frogs bounced back in the afternoon, carding an amazing nine-under par 271, with three golfers shooting sub-70 rounds, to pull out the victory.

    Junior Mark Baldwin's 137 (63-74) earned him medalist honors for the first time in his career by two strokes over TCU's David Schultz (139). Sophomore Cole Isban was next for the Irish at six-over par 146 (73-73), while junior Scott Gustafson shot a seven-over par 147 (72-75). Freshman Greg Rodgers fired a 14-over par 154 (74-80), tying the score of his sophomore teammate Shane Sigsbee, who had matching rounds of 77.

    Eight other Notre Dame golfers competed as individuals in the dual match. Junior Eric Deutsch led the way with a five-over par 145 (72-73), his two lowest rounds of the spring, while sophomore Adam Gifford shot a seven-over par 147 (75-72), with his second-round score being the lowest of his career. Freshman Mike King also charted a 147 (73-74), while fellow rookie Eddie Peckels was one shot behind with an eight-over par 148 (74-74), matching his low rounds of the spring.

    Rounding out the Irish individuals were: junior Tommy Balderston at nine-over par 149 (75-74); senior co-captain K.C. Wiseman , who shot a 10-over par 150 (76-74); sophomore Adam Hoyer at 13-over par 153 (79-74), and senior co-captain Steve Colnitis at 16-over par 156 (81-75). Wiseman's rounds were his lowest of the spring, while Colnitis' second-round 75 was a season best.

    Next For The Irish
    Notre Dame returns home to begin postseason play April 23-24 in the BIG EAST Championship at the Warren Golf Course. The Irish are the defending conference champions, having rallied from a four-stroke deficit over the final nine holes to defeat Virginia Tech with a score of 876 (+36).

    Notre Dame will be joined by five other teams, with Rutgers (No. 125 in the Golfstat rankings) and Georgetown (No. 183) appearing most likely to challenge the Irish for the league title. The winner of the BIG EAST Championship will receive an automatic bid to the 2005 NCAA Regionals - Notre Dame will play host to the Central Regional May 19-21.

     

     

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