March 30, 1998
Notre Dame Wins at Bear Slide
Weeks Captures Medalist Honors
CICERO, Ind. - Notre Dame senior Bryan Weeks turned in the first medalist performance of his career while junior newcomer Willie Kent finished second and sophomore Jeff Connell tied for third, as the Irish men's golf team repeated as team champion Monday at the Butler Spring Invitational with impressive back-to-back rounds of 292 at the par-71, 7,041-yard Bear Slide Golf Course.
Notre Dame built on its nine-shot, first-round lead by again shooting 292 on Monday, outdistancing second-place Morehead State (306-305) by 27 strokes. Monday's score in the play-five/count-four format was all the more impressive due to strong and gusting winds throughout the final round.
Weeks and sophomore Todd Vernon led the Irish with final round 71s and Kent carded a 73 while first round co-leader Connell and junior Brad Hardin both turned in 77s.
Notre Dame also won the Butler Invitational at Bear Slide in the spring of 1997, with rounds of 295 and 317 highlighted by Weeks' runner-up finish (77-74), a third-place showing by Hepler (75-78) and Vernon's sixth-place finish (72-82)--a spot he again occupied at this year's event.
Monday's team title equals the second-biggest field ever defeated by a Notre Dame tournament championship team, trailing only the 18-team field at last year's Butler Invitational. The 1978-79 Irish squad was victorious at the 16-team Indiana Intercollegiate.
Notre Dame's two rounds represent the first time during the 1990s that an Irish squad has shot 292 or better in consecutive rounds of a tournament. The 584 total stands as the best 36-hole team total at Notre Dame in 20 years and fourth-best in team history, since tournaments switched from match play to team totals in 1966.
Weeks had shot a 72 in Sunday's opening round before using his best round of 1997-98 to finish with a career-best 143--equaling the third-best 36-hole total by an Irish golfer in the 1990s. Kent, who turned in his second consecutive impressive performance since transferring from Saint Louis University, used rounds of 74 and 73 to finish four shots behind Weeks.
Weeks' final round included three birdies and three bogeys. He turned in back-to-back birdies on the par-four, 378-yard 9th hole and the par-four, 440-yard 10th. Weeks chipped in a birdie from the fairway trap on the 10th, a hole which he had double-bogeyed on Sunday and in both rounds of last year's tournament at Bear Slide.
Kent turned in six birdies Monday, with six bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-4, 368-yard 17th. His highlight of the day came on one of his five pars--the par-three, 172-yard 16th. Kent sent his tee shot on 16 past the green and down a steep grass embankment but was able to chip four feet past the hole before knocking in the putt to save par.
Notre Dame's 584 total has been bested just three times in the program's history: 578 at Northern Illinois in 1967-68, 581 at the 1967-68 Notre Dame Invitational and 582 at the 1977-78 Indianapolis Invitational.
NOTES: Kent averaged 74 strokes per round last fall for St. Louis and has averaged 73.80 strokes through five rounds with the Irish ... Vernon and Weeks remain on pace for two of the best season stroke averages in Notre Dame history ... Vernon has counted to the team score in 17 of 18 rounds this during 1997-98 while averaging 74.72 strokes per round, putting him on pace for the sixth-best season average in recorded team history--just behind Bill Cvengros' 74.64 in 1967-68--and best since John Lundgren's 74.40 in 1979-80 ... Weeks is 14 strokes behind Vernon with a 75.50 average, which would rank eighth in recorded team history and best Joe Dennen's 1990s-best mark (75.90, in 1992-93) ... Weeks' career stroke average now stands at 76.43 over 84 rounds, representing the fourth-best mark in recorded team history (since 1954)--just behind Frank Hund's 76.40 (1958-60)--and best by an Irish golfer since Joseph Grace's 74.56 in 1960-62 ... other Irish season stroke averages: Connell (76.44) and Hardin (77.11) ... Notre Dame's 1997-98 team stroke average continues to improve, dropping below the 300 mark to 299.67 (74.92 per counted individual score), which would stand as the best mark by an Irish squad, since the count-four format was adopted in 1980 (the 1979-80 team averaged 300.07 strokes) ... Connell's first-round 71 was the second-best round of his career while Week's 71 tied for his third-best career round ... Vernon carded a 69 as a freshman while his impressive 1997-98 season has included one 70 and four 71s.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (36 holes): 1. Notre Dame 292-292/584 2. Morehead State 306-305/611 3. Ball State 301-312/613 4. Oakland University 307-327/620 5. Robert Morris 308-319/622 6. Youngstown State 303-319/622 7. Cincinnati 308-317/625 8. Butler 303-323/623 9. Cleveland State 315-311/626 10. Indianapolis 319-318/637 11. Southern Indiana 324-327/651 12. Dayton 325-339/659 13. Wisconsin-Green Bay 333-326/659 14. Loyola (Illinois) 329-331/660 15. Eastern Illinois 332-331/663 16. IUPUI 330-333. TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 90): 1. Bryan Weeks, ND, 72-71/143 2. Willie Kent, ND, 74-73/147 3. Jeff Connell, ND, 71-77/148 Matt Creech, CSU, 72-76/148 Dave Harris, OAK, 74-74/148 6. Todd Vernon, ND, 78-71/149 Jamie Broce, BSU, 71-78/149 Kevin Childers, MORE, 75-74/149 OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORE: Brad Hardin 75-77/152