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    March 14, 1998

    Notre Dame Surges to 5th at Golden Ocala Intercollegiate

    OCALA, Fla. - A career-best effort from sophomore Todd Vernon and some clutch play by newcomer Willie Kent led the way as the Notre Dame men's golf team rallied for a fifth-place finish Saturday at the 18-team Golden Ocala Intercollegiate, held at the par-72, 6,735-yard Golden Ocala Golf Club.

    Notre Dame finished with a three-over round of 291 to finish one shot in front of Louisville and Methodist, two shots ahead of Purdue and three in front of Penn State in the play-six/count-four format. Richmond used a final-round 281 to edge the Irish by a stroke while Notre Dame finished 11 shots behind champion Rollins College and seven shots behind Miami (Ohio) and Michigan State.

    The Irish stood in seventh place after an opening-round 307 on Thursday and moved into sixth with a 294 on Friday, paced by Vernon's 71 and a 73 by Kent, a junior playing in his first tournament with the Irish after transferring from Saint Louis University.

    Vernon finished seventh in the 108-player field, posting a four-over 220 after rounds of 76-71-73, besting his previous career-best 54-hole score of 221, set at last fall's Air Force Invitational. Kent finished tied for 14th with a 222, bouncing back from an opening-round 79 with impressive rounds of 73 and 70--equaling the third best round in the entire tournament (324 combined rounds). David Mandulak (JMU) and Mario Coulmo (Rollins) posted the best rounds of the tournament (69) while Kent carded one of six 70's in the three-day event.

    Notre Dame's final-round 291 included a 72 from junior Brad Hardin and a 76 by senior captain Bryan Weeks. Both of those veterans did not factor in Notre Dame's first-round score, as Weeks shot his second-worst round of 1997-98 (81) while Hardin carded an opening 82. Weeks also did not count in the second round (78) en route to a 235 total while Hardin's second-round 74 led to a 228.

    Sophomore Jeff Connell also finished with a 228, counting to the team score in the first (74) and third (76) rounds, with a second-day 78. Senior Brad Stanis rounded out the Irish contingent, counting to the team score with rounds of 78 and 76 before firing a 77 on Saturday.

    Vernon--who entered the semester with the 39th-best stroke average among the 32 teams in the Midwest District--and Weeks remain on pace for two of the best season stroke averages in Notre Dame history. Vernon continues to lead the Irish with a 74.75 stroke average over 16 rounds, putting him on pace for the sixth-best season average in recorded team history and best since John Lundgren's 74.40 in 1979-80.

    Weeks is 19 strokes behind Vernon with a 75.94 average, which would rank just behind Joe Dennen's top Irish mark in the 1990s (75.90, in 1992-93) and would rank 11th in recorded team history. Weeks' career stroke average now stands at 76.54 over 82 rounds, representing the fifth-best mark in recorded team history (since 1954) and best by an Irish golfer since Joseph Grace's 74.56 in 1960-62.

    Other Irish season stroke averages: Connell (76.75), Stanis (77.00) and Hardin (77.25). Stanis' totals are for 13 rounds, as he did not play in last fall's Iowa Intercollegiate.

    Notre Dame's season team stroke average now stands at 300.63 (75.16 per counted individual score), which would rank third in Irish history, since the count-four format was adopted in 1980. The 1979-80 team averaged 300.07 strokes while the 1993-94 squad posted a 300.57 team average.

    Kent's first tournament with the Irish included his former school, as SLU finished 11th with a 915. Kent's younger brother, Alex, turned in rounds of 84-71-74 for the Billikens.

    TEAM RESULTS (54 holes): 1. Rollins 302-293-287/882; 2. Miami 301-293-291/885; Michigan State 298-295-292/885; 4. Richmond 308-296-281/891; 5. Notre Dame 307-294-291/892; 6. Louisville 314-288-291/893; 7. Methodist 306-289-298/893; 8. Purdue 305-298-291/894; 9. Penn State 296-301-298/895; 10. James Madison 312-291-298/901; 11. Saint Louis 318-304-293/915; 12. Temple 310-306-307/915; 13. Ohio 310-306-300/916; 14. Murray State 310-308-309/927; 15. Ferris State 314-304-310/928; Marquette 325-302-301/928; 17. Northern Illinois 316-312-301/929; 18. Bowling Green 327-322-308/957.

    TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 108): 1. Chris Eaves (METH) 73-73-71/217; Ken MacDonald (RICH) 75-71-71/217; 3. Matt Pulmford (MSU) 74-71-73/218; Fredrik Nilsson (ROLL) 75-72-71/218; 5. Matt Abbott (PSU) 71-74-74/219; Colby Huffman (PUR) 74-75-70; 7. Todd Vernon (ND) 76-71-73/220; 8. Ryan Lagergreen (MIA) 76-70-74/220; 9. Chris Campbell (LOU) 80-72-69/221; John Ehrgott (MSU) 75-70-76/221; Scott Phillips (PSU) 73-75-73/221; Ryan Kate (PUR) 75-73-73/221; Doug Kruep (SLU) 77-72-72/221.

    OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES: Willie Kent 79-73-70/222; Jeff Connell 74-78-76/228; Brad Hardin 82-74-72/228; Brad Stanis 78-76-77/231; Bryan Weeks 81-78-76/235.

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