The Notre Dame men's golf team will enter its first season in the ACC with some insight into the opposition in the new conference as head coach Jim Kubinski got his coaching start as an assistant at Duke from 2003-05, serving as an assistant for both the men's and women's programs. Now in his 10th season at Notre Dame, Kubinski and the Irish have enjoyed success in the BIG EAST winning four conference championships (2005, 2006, 2011 and 2012) in his tenure while advancing to the NCAA Tournament in each of those four seasons.
Notre Dame is coming off a 2012-13 season that saw the Irish finish third in the BIG EAST and saw its streak of conference titles and NCAA appearances snapped at two. Kubinski's team returns four of its top five golfers who should be key contributors during the squad's first season in the ACC. Leading the way is senior Niall Platt (Santa Barbara, Calif.) who owns the program's second-best scoring average with a 73.55 mark over 86 career rounds.
He is followed by sophomore Cory Sciupider (Etowah, N.C.) who turned in a 74.00 average in his rookie season, including the team's top finish at the BIG EAST where he finished third and took all-BIG EAST honors. Senior Andrew Lane (Fairport, N.Y.) and junior Tyler Wingo (Fairfax, Va.) round out the top four returnees.
In the past, Notre Dame men's golf teams have excelled when changing conferences. After joining the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1988-89, the Irish went on to win three conference titles (1988, 1989 and 1994). When they moved to the BIG EAST in 1995, the Irish would go on to win eight conference titles. Who knows what is in store for Notre Dame with the start of play in the ACC?
The Irish will definitely be making a step up when it comes to the quality of competition they will face among the roster of teams in the ACC. This past year, the BIG EAST had three teams ranked among the top 117 men's programs, according to Golfweek's final rankings - South Florida (58), Louisville (80) and Notre Dame (117) - while at the same time, the Atlantic Coast Conference had 10 teams ranked above Notre Dame's spot, including seven programs in the top 50 - Georgia Tech (8), Florida State (10), Duke (13), Clemson (33), Virginia Tech (36), Wake Forest (46) and North Carolina (50). In 2012-13, the Irish played in tournaments that featured six ACC teams - Boston College, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina and North Carolina State - and were 3-7 against those teams.
ACC schools have claimed four men's national championships in golf with Wake Forest winning three (1974, 1975 and 1986) and Clemson in 2003. Notre Dame has one national championship in golf, winning the title in 1944. While the ACC has four men's champions, the conference has also produced 13 second-place finishes with Georgia Tech and Wake Forest having four, Clemson and North Carolina two and Duke one.
Twelve of the ACC's 15 current members sponsor men's golf with Miami, Pittsburgh and Syracuse not having programs. This past spring saw the Duke men win their first ACC title since 2005 and the seventh in the program's history. Wake Forest (18) and Georgia Tech (14) have dominated the conference tournament winning 32 times combined with Georgia Tech taking six of the last eight since 2006. Those two schools are followed by North Carolina (11), Clemson (9) and Duke (7).
The Duke men's team (839) won the 2013 ACC title by three strokes over Virginia Tech (842) and Florida State (842) with Tech's Anders Albertson (201) winning the individual title by five strokes over Virginia Tech's Mikey Moyers (206) and Florida State's Chase Sieffert (206).
The Atlantic Coast Conference has produced its share of professional golfers, including the likes of Arnold Palmer (Wake Forest), Lanny Wadkins (Wake Forest), Curtis Strange (Wake Forest), Davis Love III (North Carolina), David Duval (Georgia Tech), Matt Kuchar (Georgia Tech) and Stewart Cink (Georgia Tech) to name a few.
While the Irish will make the ACC their new home conference, one area that they won't see much of a difference is in facilities. The Warren Golf Course gives the conference another one of the top courses in all of college golf. Golfweek Magazine ranked the top 30 college courses in the nation last fall and the ACC will now have six of them. The Pete Dye Course at Virginia Tech (8) led the rankings and was followed by the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame (11th), the Duke University Course (12), the Finley Golf Course at North Carolina (22nd), the Birdwood Golf Course at the University of Virginia (25) and the Lonnie Poole Golf Course (30) in Raleigh, N.C.
The Notre Dame women's golf program also has enjoyed quite a bit of success in recent years under head coach Susan Holt. Since taking over the program in 2006, Holt has moved the Irish women's team into national prominence winning three BIG EAST titles (2008, 2011 and 2013) while seeing her squads represented in the NCAAs in each of the last seven seasons, advancing to the championship round in 2011.
During the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame closed out its final year in the BIG EAST in grand style, winning the conference championship by 14 strokes (861-875) over second-place Louisville. The Irish were led by co-medalist sophomore Talia Campbell (Dallas, Texas), who fired a six-under par 210 to win the tournament by three strokes. Junior Ashley Armstrong (Flossmoor, Ill.), the 2012 individual champion, finished fifth overall. Notre Dame then went on to tie for 15th at the NCAA East Regional held in Auburn, Ala.
Holt's 2013-14 squad will return four of its five top golfers led by Armstrong who owns the second-best career average (75.14) at Notre Dame over her first two seasons with three individual medalist honors to her credit. Campbell, a sophomore, turned in a 74.70 average in her rookie season while being named all-BIG EAST and taking a share of the conference title. She is followed by senior Kristina Nhim (Cypress, Calif.) who is a three-year regular in the lineup and ranks seventh on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with a 77.01 average over 97 career rounds. Rounding out the quartet is junior Kelli Oride (Lihue, Hawaii) who has a 78.62 average in 60 career rounds. Highly touted freshman Jordan Ferreira (University Place, Wash.) is expected to make an impact in her rookie year.
Like the men, the Notre Dame women's squad will be facing some of the nation's top teams in the ACC. As a member of the BIG EAST, the Irish were the conference's top-rated team according to Golfweek's poll at 31. They were followed by Louisville (63), South Florida (93) and Cincinnati (114). Notre Dame's new home conference features four programs ranked higher - Duke (2), Virginia (16), North Carolina (17) and North Carolina State (20) - with five others ranked among the top 84. Notre Dame is followed by Wake Forest (37), Florida State (42), Miami (57), Maryland 62) and Boston College (84). The Irish participated in tournaments that featured eight ACC teams - Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest - turning in a 6-3 record versus those squads.
Two current conference members have won NCAA championships with Duke winning five national titles (1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007) while Miami won its championship in 1964.
Eleven of the ACC's current 15 members sponsor women's golf with Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia Tech not having the women's version of the sport. Duke has been the conference's dominant program as the Blue Devils have won a total of 18 conference tournaments, including the last two seasons. They are followed by Wake Forest with five and North Carolina with two.
Last season, Duke (882) fired three sub-300 rounds at the ACC Championship in Greensboro, N.C., to win the conference championship by 24 strokes over North Carolina State and 27 over third-place finisher Virginia. The Cavaliers' Brittany Altomare was the individual winner with a four-over par 217, with Duke's Laetitia Beck finishing second with a 219.
Several ACC alums have made their way to the LPGA Tour, players such as Donna Andrews (North Carolina), Amanda Blumenhurst (Duke), Meaghan Francella (North Carolina), Anna Grzebien (Duke) and Brittany Lang (Duke).