Sept. 29, 1997
Vernon's Big-East Record 141 Leads Notre Dame to Third Men's Golf Title
Irish win by 32-stroke margin; Vernon posts one of best efforts in Notre Dame golf history
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - University of Notre Dame sophomore Todd Vernon (Englewood, Colo.) ran away with tournament medalist honors in record-setting fashion while leading the Irish to a comfortable 32-stroke victory in wind-swept, final-round action Monday at the BIG EAST Conference men's golf championship, held at Blackthorn Golf Club.
Notre Dame claimed its third straight BIG EAST title behind the historic effort of Vernon and steady play from seniors Brad Stanis (Coral Gables, Fla.) and Bryan Weeks (Tulsa, Okla.), with each earning a spot on the seven-member all-conference team. Notre Dame's George Thomas also repeated as BIG EAST Conference coach of the year, his third conference coach of the year award in 10 seasons with the Irish.
Seton Hall rallied to a runner-up finish at 627, edging out three teams that tied for third at 629: Connecticut, Georgetown and St. John's. Georgetown sophomore Greg Koush (Houston, Texas) totaled a 147 to edge Stanis by a shot for runner-up honors.
Monday's early action included the conclusion of Sunday's round that was suspended due to darkness, with the final three teams--Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Georgetown--having a combined 11 holes left to play (ranging from the 15th-18th) among their respective five-man teams.
Vernon, playing as Notre Dame's #3 man, had to finish the 17th and 18th before beginning his second round. Despite a bogey on the par-four 17th, Vernon completed his first round with a tournament-leading, two-under 70, leaving him two shots ahead of three other golfers.
Vernon--who had to three-putt just once in the 36-hole tournament--then carded a one-under 71 in the second round, despite harsh wind conditions that reached over 30 miles per hour. His 141 total bests the 18-year-old BIG EAST Championship record of 142 (-2), set by Providence's Matt Zito at Willimantic (Conn.) Country Club in 1979.
Notre Dame golfers have captured five conference medalist trophies during the 1990s, with that group including Mike O'Connell, Jr. (Midwestern Collegiate, 1990-91), Chris Dayton (MCC, 1991-92), Brian Donohoe (MCC, 1994-95) and Bill Moore (BIG EAST, 1995-96).
Vernon's three-under 141 also represents the best 36-hole tournament score by a Notre Dame golfer in the recorded history of the program (since 1963) and the best 36-hole tournament by an Irish golfer in any competition since Mike O'Connell, Sr., totaled a 137 during a 1964-65 quad-meet against Air Force, Western Illinois and Iowa. Vernon's 141 equals the third-best recorded 36-hole score by an Irish golfer since 1963 , with O'Connell owning the only other recorded sub-140 score, a 136 in a 1962--63 quad meet against Northwestern, Ball State and Bellarmine.
After a clarification of first-round scores, Notre Dame headed into Monday's completion of the opening round with a 19-stroke cushion on Georgetown and 22-stroke lead on Villanova and Seton Hall. But Stanis bogeyed his only remaining hole (18), Vernon bogeyed 17 and Weeks finished with three straight bogeys, yielding the Irish a team score of 293 (+5) in the play-five, count-four format. Georgetown, meanwhile, played even-par over the course of the first-round completion, making up five strokes on the hosts en route to a first-round 307.
As the second round began to unfold, Notre Dame pulled away from the field amidst a day known for gusting winds that often quickly changed direction, adding to the challenge of the 7,105-yard course, which included tough pin placements throughout the 36-hole event.
Stanis proved his worth as Notre Dame's #5 man, a role in which Vernon excelled as a freshman in 1996-97. Stanis finished all alone in third place with a 148, after an impressive final-round 73 that included nine pars and a birdie over the first 10 holes. Weeks, who entered the second round two shots behind Vernon, made the turn at two-over before carding three straight bogeys en route to a 79, good enough for a 151 total and share of fourth.
Seton Hall rallied to its runner-up finish behind a second-round 75 from its #3 player, freshman Eugene Smith. The Pirates' 312 second round was rounded out by a 78 from Mike Costigan, a 79 from Ed Shannon and an 80 from Scott Cawley.
TODD VERNON: "This was a good confidence booster for me and for the team, especially because we didn't play very well in our first two tournament. ... When it gets windy like it did today, you have to rely on your short game and focus on every shot. That's what I tried to do and it worked. This is definitely this best back-to-back rounds I've ever shot at Blackthorn [which serves as Notre Dame's home course]. ... I had a pretty good tournament, putting-wise. Making the 15-foot birdie on the first hole today was a big boost but then I got aggressive on the 3rd hole and ended up with my only three-putt of the tournament. I came right back with a good approach on the 4th hole and made a three-footer for birdie. Then, I made a 20-foot birdie on the 8th hole and that really got me going, just like on Sunday when my birdie on 9 led to four straight birdies. I took a bogey on 15 after knocking the ball over the green. The 17th hole was real interesting. I had a 12-footer for par and was ready to putt but I thought I was going to lose my balance because the wind was blowing so hard. I just backed off for a few seconds and was able to make the putt. On the final hole (the par-five 18th), I didn't mean to hit my second shot so hard but it ended up just about 30 yards in front of the green. I was able to chip to the green and two-putt for the par."