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    Irish Tee Off 2007-08 Season This Weekend With Return To Minnesota

    FIGHTING IRISH Junior Josh Sandman is Notre Dame's top returning player in 2007-08, currently standing in a virtual tie for the school's career stroke average lead at 73.76 through 17 tournaments.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Junior Josh Sandman is Notre Dame's top returning player in 2007-08, currently standing in a virtual tie for the school's career stroke average lead at 73.76 through 17 tournaments.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Sept. 13, 2007

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    Gopher Invitational
    Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 15-16, 2007
    8:30 a.m. (CT) Sat./8 a.m. (CT) Sun.
    Spring Hill Golf Club
    Wayzata, Minn.
    Par 72/7,020 yards

    Irish Tee Off 2007-08 Season With Return To Minnesota
    For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame will open its season by participating in Minnesota's Gopher Invitational, slated for Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 15-16) at the Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn. The Irish placed fifth in the inaugural version of the tournament in 2005, before taking ninth place in last year's event, which was played in cold and blustery conditions.

    Notre Dame returns five monogram winners, including three starters, from last year's squad that finished as the BIG EAST Conference runner-up and posted the second-lowest single-season stroke average in school history (295.71). Junior Josh Sandman, an all-conference selection last year, is the top returning player for the Irish with a 73.91 stroke average in 2006-07. He also is in a virtual tie for the school's career stroke average record at 73.76.

    Quoting Coach Kubinski ...
    "We're excited to be making our third trip to the Gopher Invitational at the Spring Hill Golf Club. It's a supremely-conditioned golf course that offers a great variety of shots and always has very fast and very undulating greens.

    "We're obviously a very young team this season with 8 of our 12 players being underclassmen. I like what I've seen thus far. We haven't played young in qualifying. We've already had several scores in the 60s, including a couple of 64s. While Spring Hill will be set up more in line with a USGA competition -- requiring great patience and discipline -- I expect good scores from our boys.

     

     

    "Josh (Sandman) is poised to have a breakout season. He has made strides in his mental approach and has always been extremely talented, physically. Greg Rodgers and Eddie Peckels offer senior leadership as captains this year, and they have an opportunity this week to turn their hard work into effective play. I expect Greg to build on his great play at our most recent event, the BIG EAST Championship (Rodgers tied for 11th place at one-over par 217).

    "I expect Coach (Steve) Colnitis will provide solid leadership in my absence. He has been in our system for three years now and has a great understanding of our approach. I know he'll have the course mapped out and our boys ready to play smart shots."

    Dates and Times
    Teams will play the first two rounds (36 holes) on Saturday, beginning with a shotgun start for round one at 8:30 a.m. (ET) and featuring continuous play into the second round. Pairings and tee times for Sunday's final round will be based upon the 36-hole standings, with split starts from the first and 10th tees. All times and formats are tentative and subject to change.

    Following The Irish
    Live in-progress scoring from the Gopher Invitational will be available through the Golfstat web site (click here for the tournament page). In addition, complete results following each day's action will be posted here 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 available on the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000).

    Results also will be available via the Irish ALERT text-message system, which provides fans with regular updates on Notre Dame's progress at the Gopher Invitational through text messages sent to their cell phone. For more information, click here.

    The Tournament Format
    A total of 12 five-man teams (60 participants, plus the possibility of some additional golfers competing on an individual basis) will be taking part in the Gopher 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. Scores by golfers competing on an individual basis do not count to the team score.

    The Teams
    Besides Notre Dame and tournament host Minnesota, the remaining teams in the field for the Gopher Invitational are: Arkansas, Georgia Southern, Illinois, Indiana, Lamar, Michigan State, Princeton, San Diego, SMU and Wisconsin.

    According to the preseason edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf Top 25 coaches' poll, No. 16 Lamar is the highest-ranked team scheduled to take part in this weekend's tournament. Two other teams received votes in the initial coaches' survey -- Minnesota (129 votes; 26th place) and Michigan State (21 votes; 32nd place).

    Meanwhile, the final 2006-07 ratings in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index show that five of last year's top 50 teams will be on hand for the Gopher Invitational. Leading the way is No. 3 Lamar, followed by No. 26 Minnesota and No. 30 Michigan State. Also on the first page of the Golfweek ratings are No. 44 Wisconsin and No. 48 SMU. Georgia Southern and Notre Dame were not far outside the Golfweek Top 50, checking in at No. 57 and No. 60, respectively.

    In addition, the year-end Golfstat rankings indicate five of this weekend's participants appeared in that service's Top 50 at the close of the 2006-07 campaign. Third-ranked Lamar set the bar, with No. 31 Michigan State, 32nd-ranked Minnesota, No. 36 Wisconsin and 49th-ranked Indiana rounding out last year's top 50 teams in the '07 Gopher Invitational field.

    Head-To-Head
    At some point last season, Notre Dame faced each of the other 11 teams in this weekend's Gopher Invitational field, amassing a combined 12-15-1 (.446) record against those clubs. The Irish record vs. the rest of the this week's tournament competition breaks down as follows: Arkansas (2-0), Georgia Southern (1-1), Illinois (2-1), Indiana (0-3), Lamar (0-4), Michigan State (0-3), Minnesota (1-2), Princeton (1-0), San Diego (2-0), SMU (1-1) and Wisconsin (2-0-1).

    The Course
    Opening in 1999, the Spring Hill Golf Club is a challenging par-72, 7,020-yard layout designed by noted architect Tom Fazio. The course was rated as one of the top five courses in the state of Minnesota, according to the 2006-07 Golf Digest rankings, and continues to live up to that reputation. It puts a premium on shot-making ability, especially around the greens, which will be among the most difficult that many of the golfers in this weekend's field will face all year.

    Noting The Irish At The Gopher Invitational

  • Notre Dame is making it third appearance in as many years at the tournament hosted by Minnesota. In 2005-06, the Irish posted a fifth-place finish with a three-round total of 29-over par 893 (309-297-287). Last year, Notre Dame battled cold and windy conditions to place ninth at 54-over par 918 (313-295-310).
  • Scott Gustafson was Notre Dame's top individual in 2005-06, tying for sixth place in the 66-man field with a two-over par 218 (73-73-72). A year ago, current junior Josh Sandman and three-time PING All-Midwest Region selection Cole Isban tied for 19th place at 11-over par 227.
  • Sophomore Doug Fortner made his college debut in last year's Gopher Invitational, tying for 43rd place at 20-over par 236 (79-71-86). Fortner also aced the par-3, 139-yard 17th hole with a pitching wedge during the second round.
  • Freshman Connor Alan-Lee played his way into this weekend's starting lineup after a solid effort during qualifying earlier in the preseason. Alan-Lee, a native of Solana Beach, Calif., posted a 74.94 stroke average on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) circuit the past two summers, collecting three top-20 finishes along the way.
  • Kubinski Kubed
    Fourth-year Notre Dame head coach Jim Kubinski will not make the trip with the Irish to this weekend's Gopher Invitational, but he's got a very good reason. His wife, Sarah, is due to give birth to the couple's first child any day. Assistant coach Steve Colnitis will assume coaching duties for Notre Dame at the Gopher Invitational.

    "B" Prepared
    In addition to Notre Dame's participation at the Gopher Invitational, the Irish "B" team will travel to Piscataway, N.J., Friday and Saturday for the Rutgers Invitational. A contingent of three sophomores (Olavo Batista, Carl Santos-Ocampo, Kyle Willis) and two freshmen (Jeffrey Chen, Dustin Zhang) will head to the East Coast for this weekend's tournament, with Notre Dame Warren Golf Course General Manager/Head Golf Pro John Foster serving as acting coach for the Irish, while regular assistant coach Steve Colnitis heads to Minnesota.

    It should be noted that Notre Dame's team scores from the Rutgers Invitational will not count toward the program's national rankings (Golfstat or Golfweek), although individual scores will be accepted.

    The Sandman Cometh
    With the graduation of three-time PING All-Midwest Region selection Cole Isban, junior Josh Sandman moves to the top of the Notre Dame starting lineup. Sandman was an all-BIG EAST Conference selection in 2007 after his 10th-place finish at the season-ending league tournament when he fired a one-under par 215 (73-74-68).

    A native of Greensboro, N.C., Sandman currently stands in a virtual tie with Isban for the school's career stroke average record with a mark of 73.764 in 49 career rounds (Isban registered a 73.755 mark from 2003-07). Sandman also has been about as consistent as they come, posting 11 Top 25 finishes in 17 career tournaments, with 47 of his 49 rounds (95.9 percent) counting to the team score.

    Captains Courageous
    Notre Dame's three seniors have been selected as team captains for the 2007-08 season. Mike King, Eddie Peckels and Greg Rodgers all are serving in that capacity for the first time in their careers.

    The .500 Rule
    According to a new rule passed by the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Committee, teams must finish their season with a winning head-to-head record (i.e. better than .500) in order to be considered for a berth in postseason play.

    Things You Should Know About The Irish

  • Notre Dame has won six BIG EAST Conference titles in its 12-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 three of the top seven 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 nine of the top 13 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 13 Top 25 teams (according to Golfweek) and posted 12 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: Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic (Sept. 30-Oct. 2)
    Notre Dame returns home for the second annual Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic, to be held at the Warren Golf Course on the Notre Dame campus. Lamar won last year's event, with the Irish and Baylor rounding out the top three. The Cardinals will return to defend their title, with Baylor, Michigan State and North Florida joining Notre Dame in the quest for top honors.

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