May 14, 2014
-THREE DAYS OF REGIONAL PLAY
-A TOTAL OF 14 TEAMS AND FIVE INDIVIDUALS TEE IT UP
Notre Dame’s Niall Platt competes for it all in the NCAA Championship
By Staci Gasser
Senior tri-captain Niall Platt has had his best season as a member of the University of Notre Dame men’s golf squad in 2014.
He finished in the top 100 in of the Golfweek men’s collegiate rankings, and is the current holder of the best career scoring average (73.08) in Irish men’s golf history.
Now Platt will top it all off with a chance to win it all after earning a bid to the regional stage of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship.
“I met most of the goals I assessed on myself when I started,” Platt said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to [win a national championship] as a team while I was here, but hopefully I can give it a shot as an individual.
“It feels good to be rewarded for playing well this year. I definitely wanted to play one more time for Notre Dame.”
The Santa Barbara, Calif. native is only the second golfer in program history, joining Josh Sandman (‘10), to be chosen as an individual competitor for an NCAA Regional, although it’s Platt’s third start in an NCAA Regional tournament during his Notre Dame career. He was the top Irish finisher in NCAA competition as a freshman, carding a three-round score of six-under-par 210 (68-69-73) to tie for 10th place at the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional in Ocala, Fla.
This year he will be playing in the NCAA Sugar Grove (Ill.) Regional, hosted by Northern Illinois, at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. starting on Thursday. The 54-hole regional tournament will be contested on the par 72, 7,151-yard layout.
“The competition is going to be one of the strongest fields I’ve played this year,” Platt said. ”I’ve been in a couple of these events before. I’m not too intimated.”
“The way it’s set up to advance to the finals, they are going to take the lowest individual player out of the players not going from the team,” Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski said. “There are five teams who are advancing and all of those players go and then they’ll take the player who’s next in line. You could finish second and not go or you could finish 18th and go. It just depends on how it falls.
“So Niall’s job will be to put the ball in position, stay focused, try to believe in himself in every shot and have fun.”
Platt said he is going to approach this tournament like any other tournament and has read up on his own game to see where he needs to improve. That way he gains a little bit of an edge over his competitors.
Platt posted four top five, five top 10 and 10 total top 25 finishes during 11 starts in his
final regular season at Notre Dame. He excelled during the spring tournament slate, bringing home his second career victory after shooting a one-under score of 209 (71-66-72) at the Oak Hill Invitational on April 21-22.
“Niall’s average is about as good as it gets in the country when you look at the courses we played, courses who hosted major championships,” Kubinski said. “All of those courses don’t land low scores very easily.”
Platt was also named to the 2014 all-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) team, the first Irish golfer to earn all-ACC honors. He will graduate from Notre Dame as a four-time all-conference player after claiming three all-BIG EAST citations from 2011-13.
“It’s a great thrill watching a young player grow and develop over the years, do some great things over a career, and really reap the benefits of a lot of hard work and a lot of experiences,” Kubinski said. “I think that’s really exciting for everyone and rewarding at the same time.”
Platt graduated this spring with a degree in applied and computational mathematics and statistics and hopes to turn pro after the NCAA tournament by qualifying for the Web.com Tour.
The first two rounds of the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional will be contested on Thursday and Friday, with tee times slated to start at 8 a.m. (CT). Saturday’s final round is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m.