Sept. 27, 1998
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Notre Dame senior Willie Kent (Asuncion, Paraguay) squandered his two-shot lead but still finished in a three-way tie for medalist honors while the Irish men's golf team slipped to third place out of 12 teams, in final-round action Sunday at the Iowa Hawkeye Intercollegiate.
Kent, who has led the Irish with an impressive 73.7 stroke average over the last 20 rounds since transferring from Saint Louis University, fired rounds of 69 and 71 on Saturday before slipping to a 76 on Sunday at the par-71, 6,724-yard Finkbine Golf Course. Iowa's Chris Englund (73-70-73) and Kentucky's Jeremy Langley (70-73-73) finished in a three-way tie with Kent atop the leaderboard, with Englund awarded first place due to the better scores in reverse order (he and Langley shot matching 73s in the third round but Englund had the better second round).
Kent's first-place finish is the ninth by an Irish golfer during the 1990s but only the fourth in an event that was not a conference championship. Other such recent winners include Bryan Weeks (1997-98 Butler Invitational), Chris Dayton (1991-92 Indiana Intercollegiate) and Brennan Murphy (1990-91 Valparaiso Invitational).
Notre Dame entered the day in second place (295-291), just three shots behind Wisconsin. But the Irish slipped behind Kentucky after shooting a final round 300, for an 886 total. Wisconsin (288-295-294) edged Kentucky (291-300-290) for the team title, with the Badgers' Todd Anderson (72-70-75) finishing fourth among the 66-player field.
Kent's three-over 216 total equals the second-lowest 54-hole score by an Irish golfer since 1963, trailing Connell's four-under 209 at last spring's Marshall Invitational and tied with Brian Donohoe's even-par 216 at the 1996-97 Legends of Indiana. Notre Dame's 886 total ranks as the program's fifth-best 54-hole team score since 1966.
Irish senior captain Brad Hardin (Martinsville, Ind.) continued his rejuvenated play by firing a 76 on Sunday to finish tied for 18th with a 224 total (73-75 on Saturday). Freshman Kyle Monfort (Dublin, Ohio) also maintained his impressive rookie season by improving in each round (76-75-74) to finish tied for 20th at 225.
Junior co-captain Todd Vernon (Englewood, Colo.) bounced back from uncharacteristic opening rounds of 80 and 76 by posting a 74 on Sunday to finish at 230. His classmate Jeff Connell (La Crosse, Wis.) suffered his worst round of the fall, plummeting from 12th to 48th place after a final round 85 for a 232 total (75-72 on Saturday).
The Irish have shown encouraging balance in their starting five through the first six rounds of play in 1998-99, which included the Air Force Invitational on Sept. 13.
Kent's second-round, two-under 69 equals the lowest round fired by a Notre Dame golfer since Dave Knee and Tim Saurs turned in 67s during the 1977-78 seasons. Irish golfers have combined for nine 69s during the 1990s, including Vernon's three-under second round at the 1996-97 Kentucky Invitational, Connell's two-under second round at the 1997-98 Marshall Invitational and Kent's three-under third round at the season-ending Ohio State Intercollegiate last spring.
Kent leads the team with a 72.83 fall average, followed by Hardin at 74.00. Just one stroke separates the remaining three golfers: Monfort (75.00), Connell (75.17) and Vernon (75.17).
Notre Dame's average team round in the fall has been 294.33 (for an average counted score of 73.58). The current team four-man average score is on pace to best the Irish season record of 298.33, set in 1997-98.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (54 holes): 1. Wisconsin 288-295-294/877; 2. Kentucky 291-300-290/881; 3. Notre Dame 295-291-300/886; 4. Northern Illinois 301-293-295/889; 5. Iowa 301-289-299/899; 6. Michigan 296-299-300/895; 7. Xavier 303-291-304/898; 8. Bowling Green 301-298-300/899; 9. Akron 304-304-307/915; Marquette 302-305-308/915; 11. Western Illinois 305-302-309/916; 12. Wright State 315-302-303/920.
TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 66): 1. Chris Englund (IOWA) 73-70-73/216; Jeremy Langley (KY) 70-73-73/216; Willie Kent (ND) 71-69-76/216; 4. Todd Anderson (WIS) 72-70-75/217; 5. Steve Dixon (XAV) 72-75-71/218; Tim Countryman (NIU) 71-74-73/218; Ryan Helminen (WIS) 68-76-74/218; 8. Wes Furnish (KY) 72-76-71/219; Adam Turner (IOWA) 72-75-72/219; 10. Joe Osmon (WRIGHT) 73-73-74/220; David Hersch (IOWA) 77-72-71/220.
OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES: 18. Brad Hardin 73-75-76/224; 20. Kyle Monfort 76-75-74/225; 40. Todd Vernon 80-76-74/230; 48. Jeff Connell 75-72-85/232.