November 2, 1998
BETHESDA, Md. -- The University of Notre Dame men's golf team struggled over its final few holes to slip three strokes behind the host school Georgetown in Sunday's BIG EAST Conference championship final-round action, at the par-71, 6,416-yard TPC Avenel Course.
Georgetown entered the day with a nine-stroke cushion on three-time defending BIG EAST champion Notre Dame but the Irish quickly erased the deficit thanks to a strong front nine. But poor finishes by Notre Dame's top-two golfers left the Irish with a 617 total (312-305) and in a tie with St. John's (313-304) behind the host Hoyas (303-311).
The last three BIG EAST championships held at TPC Avenel have been decided by five shots or fewer, with the Irish claiming a five-shot win over Connecticut in 1995 (593-598) and a one-shot victory over Georgetown in '96 (595-596).
Notre Dame senior Willie Kent finished the fall season with one of his strongest showings, using a final-round 70 to rally from a share of ninth place to a runner-up finish. Kent's 148 total was well behind medalist Andrea Huber of Georgetown (69-72), who matched the tournament record for low 36-hole score (141) that was set by Notre Dame's Todd Vernon last year at South Bend's Blackthorn Golf Club.
Seton Hall's Scott Hawley (74-77) edged Notre Dame freshman Kyle Monfort (75-77) by one stroke for third-place honors. Monfort-who impressively led the Irish during five fall tournaments with a 74.77 stroke average-struggled to the finish as a member of the final group, posting a double-bogey and then two bogeys over the final three holes.
Notre Dame's second-leading golfer this fall, senior co-captain Brad Hardin, also struggled down the stretch in the second-to-last group, resulting in his round of 81 not counting to the play-five/count-four score. Hardin-who was the BIG EAST runner-up at TPC Avenel in 1996 (70-74)-had turned in a 77 in Saturday's first round but finished bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey over his final four holes on Sunday for a 158 total and a share of 13th.
Irish junior Jeff Connell improved five shots from his opening round (83-78) while Vernon concluded his frustrating fall with a final round of 80, giving the Irish junior co-captain a 162 tournament total.
Monfort counted to the team score in 10 of 13 rounds during the fall while pacing the team in stroke average (74.77), with Kent totaling just three more shots than Monfort during the fall (972-975) for an even 75.00 average. The best fall of Hardin's four-year career yielded a 75.39 stroke average while Connell averaged 76.00 strokes during the fall of '98 (compared to his 74.14 average last spring).
Vernon's baffling 77.00 fall stroke average is nearly 2.5 strokes higher than his team-leading 74.59 average during the 1997-98 season.
Kent counted to the team score in 12 of 13 fall rounds, followed by Hardin and Connell with 11 each, Monfort with 10 and Vernon with eight. Since transferring to Notre Dame from Saint Louis University prior to the 1998 spring semester, Kent has posted six top-15 finishes in 10 tournaments, including a fourth-place showing, two runner-up finishes and medalist honors at this fall's Iowa Intercollegiate.
As a team, Notre Dame completed the fall with an average four-man score of 298.85 (74.41 per counted score), besting the 1997 fall team average (301.39) by 2.54 strokes but trailing the overall 1997-98 average (298.33).
After averaging 74.07 strokes per round last spring and 75.00 this fall, Kent will head into the 1999 spring season with a 74.52 career stroke average at Notre Dame-which would trail only Charles Thurn (74.43, 1956-58) in recorded Notre Dame golf history (since 1954). Kent has counted to the team score in 25 of 27 rounds with the Irish.
Vernon heads into the spring with a solid 75.75 career average (which still would rank fourth in Irish history) and had counted in 40 of 44 rounds prior to the fall of '98 (now 48 of 57 overall). Connell's fall dropped his career average from 76.27 to 76.20 while Hardin's strong fall lowered his career average from 77.46 to 77.06. Connell has counted in 40 of 46 career rounds, Hardin in 50 of 68.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (36 holes):
1. Georgetown 303-311/614;
TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 40):
2. Notre Dame 312-305/617; St. John's 313-304/617;
4. Seton Hall 308-314/622;
5. Connecticut 322-324/646;
6. Rutgers 325-324/649;
7. Boston College 326-324/650;
8. Villanova 324-333/657;
9. Providence 342-337/679.
1. Andreas Huber (GU) 69-72/141;
2. Willie Kent (ND) 78-70/148;
3. Scott Hawley (SHU) 74-77/151;
4. Kyle Monfort (ND) 75-77/152;
5. Andrew McKay (SJ) 76-77/153;
6. Mike Matthews (SJ) 79-74/153;
7. Greg Koush (GU) 75-80/155;
8. Eugene Smith (SHU) 80-75/155;
Robert Rusche (SJ) 79-76/155;
10. Chad Ellis (VILL) 82-84/156.
OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES:
13. Brad Hardin 77-81/158;
21. Jeff Connell 83-78/161;
24. Todd Vernon 82-80/162.