April 4, 1999
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Notre Dame men's golf team and Irish junior Jeff Connell (LaCrosse, Wis.) both came up one stroke shy of first place, following final-round action Saturday at the 14th annual Johnny Owens Invitational.
Connell (70-71) entered the final round tied with Xavier's Steve Dixon (73-68) for first place among the 90-player field. But Dixon turned in a two-under 70 on Saturday at the par-72 Kearny Hills Golf Links while Connell finished with a 71 for a 212 total.
Notre Dame's final-round 293 (after matching 294s on Friday) produced an 881 total, just one stroke behind first-place Miami University (294-291-295). The Irish also finished second at last year's Johnny Owens, with an 891 total.
Connell's 212 total is the second-lowest 54-hole tournament score in recorded Notre Dame history, trailing only the 209 he shot as runner-up at the par-71 Marshall Invitational in the spring of 1998. Connell's four-under finish on Saturday matches that Marshall total (four-under 209) as the best 54-hole scores in relation to par ever shot by an Irish golfer.
Notre Dame's 881 total represents the fifth-best 54-hole score in the program's history and the third-best in relation to par. The record for both categories was set in the fall of 1997 at the Legends of Indiana Intercollegiate (873, +9), followed by last spring's Marshall Invitational (878, +26), the 1990-91 Northern Intercollegiate, held at Purdue (879, +27) and last fall's Air Force Invitational (880, +16).
Irish co-captain Brad Hardin (Martinsville, Ind.) continued the stellar play of his entire senior season by carding rounds of 73-71-75 for a career-best 219 and a share of seventh place. His classmate Willie Kent-who tied for fourth in last year's Johnny Owens-surged to a share of 23rd after posting a 73 on Saturday (for a 224 total).
Freshman Steve Ratay's 74 rounded out the strong final round (he totaled a 226) junior co-captain Todd Vernon's frustrations continued, as he shot an 83 for a 241 total.
NOTES: Kent continues to lead the team with a 74.62 stroke average during 1998-99, followed by Connell (75.26), Hardin (75.29) and Vernon (77.71) Ratay has averaged a solid 77.50 in three events, since joining the starting five with three regular-season events left to play, Kent (74.40) is clinging to the Irish career stroke average record (Charles Thurn averaged 74.43 from 1956-58) Connell (75.90) remains sixth on that list while Vernon (76.14) is seventh Hardin has dropped his career average to 76.86 (16th-best in Irish history), after entering his senior season with a 78.00 career average Kent's current 1998-99 average now ranks second-best at Notre Dame in the 1990s, not counting Kent's 74.07 during the spring of '98 (Vernon averaged 74.59 in 1997-98) Connell and Hardin's current 1998-99 averages would rank third and fourth in the Irish record book for best in the '90s just four Irish golfers have played more tournaments in the '90s than Hardin (28): Brian Donohoe (38, 1993-97), Bryan Weeks (34, 1994-98), Joe Dennen (34, 1990-93) and Joel Hepler (33, 1993-97) Hardin's 76 rounds played rank fourth by an Irish player in the decade, behind Weeks (93), Donohoe (92) and Chris O'Connell (79.5, 1991-95) Hardin also ranks fifth in rounds counted to team score during the '90s, with 58 (Weeks had 80, Donohoe 77, Hepler 59 and O'Connell 60.5) rounds counted to team score in 1998-99 (of 21): Kent 20, Hardin 19, Connell 18 and Vernon 12 (Ratay has counted in six of eight) career rounds counted: Kent (33 of 35), Vernon (52 of 65), Connell (47 of 54) and Hardin (58 of 76).
TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Miami (OH) 294-291-295/880; 2. Notre Dame 294-294-293/881; 3. Ohio University 292-294-304/890; 4. Xavier 301-291-300/892; 5. Kentucky 306-289-302/897; 6. Marshall 300-301-299/900; 7. Ball State 308-287-306/901; 8. Indiana 302-302-300/904; 9. Eastern Kentucky 302-294-309/905; 10. Louisville 298-297-312/907; 11. Western Kentucky 309-295-304/908; 12. Wright State 300-305-304/909; 13. Eastern Michigan 305-296-309/910; 14. Vanderbilt 311-300-303/914; Morehead State 305-295-314/914; 16. . Iowa 308-304-305/917; 17. Murray State 304-301-315/920; 18. Youngstown State 312-301-308/921.
TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 90): 1. Steve Dixon (XAV) 73-68-70/211; 2. Jeff Connell (ND) 70-71-71/212; 3. Borja LaRoche (WKU) 72-72-72/216; 4. Jason Wombacher (IOWA) 74-73-71/218; Tee McCabe (MIA) 74-71-73/218; ; Jay Spargrove (OHIO) 71-72-75/218; 7. Brad Hardin 73-71-75/219; Erik Herberth (OHIO) 73-70-76/219; Eric Willenbrink (EKU) 73-70-76/219; Jeremy Langley (KY) 71-74-74/219; Adam Speirs (MIA) 74-73-72/219; Jamie Broce (BSU) 76-70-73/219.
OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES: 22. Willie Kent 73-78-73/224; 26. Steve Ratay 78-74-74/226; 86. Todd Vernon 78-80-83/241.