No. 58: Notre Dame men, Kentucky women
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Believe it or not, the start of another college golf season is just a few short weeks away. Asher Wildman will take the next 60 days to break down the top 60 teams for both the men and women. Today, it's No. 58 on the board with the Notre Dame men and Kentucky women.
For a complete listing of all the teams on the list thus far, simply click here.
NOTRE DAME MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 58
Coach: Jim Kubinski (seventh year)
Top returnees: Max Scodro, Chris Walker, Tom Usher, Paul McNamara, Niall Platt
Top newcomers: Freshman Tyler Wingo of Fairfax, Va.; Peyton Vitter of New Orleans; and Patrick Grahek of Alpharetta, Ga.
Projected starters: Max Scodro (sr.), Chris Walker (sr.), Tom Usher (sr.), Paul McNamara (jr.), Niall Platt (so.)
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: Olympia Fields
2010-11 recap: Notre Dame’s start last fall couldn’t have gone much better: four runner-up performances, then a victory at the St. Mary’s Invitational. When the winter break came, the Fighting Irish were a top-30 team and looked as if they were going to continue that pace in the spring. “In the fall, we had only four losses (57-4), which was less than our football team,” coach Jim Kubinski said. “But the spring did not go as planned.”
The stage seemed set for Notre Dame to make a splash in the second half of the season, but the Irish finished 12th at the Schenkel Invitational and eighth at LSU. They did win the Big East Championship, but failed to advance out of NCAA regionals. The Irish were in second place after 27 holes in Ocala, Fla., but faded over the next 27 holes, finishing ninth and failing to advance to the NCAA Championship – a disappointment after such a strong start in the fall.
Player to watch: Niall Platt. “Niall finished top 10 at the regional and had three top-5 finishes on the season last year,” Kubinski said. “He was second on our team in scoring by a one-hundredth of a shot to Scodro. I expect him to push Max for the team title this year, because he can score really well. He may be the best putter I’ve ever seen in college.”
Season preview: After a couple of disappointing years, it appears luck – and plenty of talent – are returning for the Irish, who have all five starters back from last season. This year, the expectations are high in South Bend, where Kubinski expects some titles.
“We’re going to tournaments now looking to win,” Kubinski said. “The days of seeing what we can do are over; it’s time to win.”
Seniors Scodro and Tom Usher will be key to Notre Dame’s success. Usher missed NCAA regionals last year because of a broken finger. The Irish should once again be the favorites in the Big East, although Louisville and South Florida continue to improve. What will be interesting is how Notre Dame handles the tough schedule that Kubinski has put together, one that features a number of top-50 teams.
“We can be a highly ranked team because our schedule is great,” Kubinski said. “Our schedule top to bottom will test us all year long, and our guys need to be tested.”
Bottom line: Notre Dame may have dropped in the rankings down the stretch last year, but this is a team on the rise. An experienced core is in place, the schedule is manageable and if Notre Dame performs up to its coach’s expectations, the Irish won’t need luck to reach the NCAA Championship. Expect them to do it on talent alone.
2010-11 final ranking: 58
Coach: Golda Borst (second year)
Top returnees: Ashleigh Albrecht, Betsie Johnson
Top newcomers: Freshman Sarah Schober of Austria
Projected starters: Ashleigh Albrecht (jr.), Betsie Johnson (jr.), Heather Lott (jr.), Liz Breed (so.), Sara Schober (fr.)
Key losses: Louise Ljungstedt and Laura McGehee
Key fall tournament: SEC/Pac-10 Challenge
2010-11 recap: Of all the teams to make it to the postseason last season, Kentucky was the biggest head-scratcher. Despite finishing the season ranked 58th, the Wildcats had an overall record of 51-123. The team was 9-110 vs. the top 50 and only 36-120 vs. the top 100 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, with one top-5 finish – a fourth place at the UCF Challenge.
After finishing 10th at the SEC Championship, Kentucky finished 20th at the NCAA East Regional, defeating only Florida International, Yale, Fairleigh Dickinson and Alabama State.
“We did OK last year,” Borst said. “We had some injuries in the spring, but that was last year; it’s time to move forward.”
Player to watch: Liz Breed. “She has grown a lot,” Borst said. “She is getting more experience, which is crucial, and won’t be as intimidated this year as she was her freshman year.”
2011-12 preview: Consistency will be a priority for Borst this fall. Junior Ashleigh Albrecht will be the team’s No. 1 player and needs to perform well for Kentucky to improve.
Kentucky had the 20th-toughest schedule in the nation last year, and this season’s may be even tougher.
“With the schedule we have this year, I’m looking for more top 5s and 10s,” Borst said. “With the tougher schedule, we should get better as the season goes along.”
One player that could have an instant impact and challenge for SEC Freshman of the Year honors is Sarah Schober of Austria. Schober has plenty of international experience after playing in the World Championships for Austria. Borst said Schober has a great swing and knows how to score.
Borst believes this could be a season in which the Wildcats exceed the expectations of others.
“Despite what some of my colleagues think, we’re going to surprise a bunch of people,” Borst said. “We have just as good of talent as several of the teams in the conference and will be more competitive this year.”
Bottom line: Despite Borst’s optimism, this still is a squad that had only one top-5 finish last season. The Wildcats have a ways to go before contending in the always-tough SEC, but there's nowhere to go but up. Kentucky should improve its record, post multiple top 5s and, at worst, again find itself on the postseason bubble.
Golfweek.com readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.