Connell Shares Runner-up Honors, Notre Dame Men Surge to 8th at Marshall
Sophomore sets school 54-hole record, team ties record for best roundApril 11, 1998
HUNTINGTON, W.V. -- Notre Dame sophomore Jeff Connell shattered the school 54-hole record with a runner-up 209 score while the Irish equaled the team record with a 283 four-man score in the final round, as the Notre Dame men's golf team made another statement in its late push for the NCAA Tournament with an eighth-place showing amongs 20 of the district's top teams Saturday at the 29th annual Marshall Invitational.
Connell used five birdies Saturday for a one-under round of 70, after turning in rounds of 70 and 69 on Friday at the par-71, 6,446-yard Guyan Golf and Country Club. Connell's four-under total of 209 tied with Miami University's Kyle Voska (65-72-72) for second among the 100-golfer field, just a shot behind Michigan's Michael Harris (72-67-69),who bested the previous tournament record of 209, set by Marshall's Jonathan Clark in 1996 and equaled Saturday by Connell and Voska.
Connell is the first Notre Dame golfer to finish under par during a 54-hole tournament, since competition switched over from match play in 1963. The previous Irish record for a three-round tournament was an even-par 216 by Brian Donohoe at the 1996-97 Legends of Indiana Intercollegiate. Connell also owns the third-best 54-hole score in the Irish record book, after shooting a one-over 217 at last fall's Legends of Indiana Intercollegiate.
The record-setting tournament for Connell included 33 pars, 13 birdies, seven bogeys and one double-bogey. He opened play Saturday by going three-over on the back nine but then birdied the 1st, 2nd and 3rd holes before adding birdies on the 5th and 7th. Connell was tied for the lead on his last hole but turned in a bogey on the 9th to finish one shot out.
Notre Dame's impressive final round of one-under 283--which vaulted the Irish from 13th to eighth-- included a 70 from senior captain Bryan Weeks, a 71 by sophomore Todd Vernon and a 72 by junior Willie Kent. The Irish had the luxury of throwing out a 73 by junior Brad Hardin. The 20-team field combined for just three rounds over the 54 holes that were better than Notre Dame's final-day effort. The host team Marshall posted an opening-round 282, as did Toledo in the second round, while runner-up Ohio State tied the tournament record with a final-round 279.
The 1967-68 Irish team turned in a round of 283 at Northern Illinois (par unknown) while the 1994-95 team totaled a four-under 284 at the Legends of Indiana.
Weeks finished tied for 19th at 217 (72-75-70), with Vernon checking in at 225 (76-78-71), Kent at 229 (76-81-72) and Hardin at 231 (79-79-73). The Irish actually opened the tournament Friday in eighth place, after firing a 294, but fell to 13th with a second-round 301.
NOTES: Each member of the Irish starting five owns a medalist or runner-up finish in his career, including four during 1997-98: Vernon (1st, BIG EAST Championship), Weeks (1st, Butler Invitational), Kent (2nd, Butler Invitational) and Connell (2nd, Marshall Invitational) ... Hardin was BIG EAST runner-up in 1996-97 ... the Irish wrapped up a 11-day stretch of three tournaments, after taking the team title at the Butler Invitational (March 29-3) and second place at the Kentucky Intercollegiate (April 3-4) ... just six strokes separate the top-four Irish golfers over spring rounds: Connell (814/74.00 avg.), Kent (816/74.18), Vernon (817/74.27) and Weeks (820/74.55), with Hardin owning a solid 74.55 spring avg. (834 strokes) ... Vernon, Weeks and Connell each have counted during 22 of 24 rounds in 1997-98 ... Vernon (75.51) and Weeks (76.13) lowered their career stroke averages, which rank 3rd and 4th in Irish history (since '54) and best in 26 years (Charles Thurn averaged 74.43 from 1956-58, Joseph Grace 74.56 from 1960-62) ... Vernon's avg. for 1997-98 rose slightly (74.71) while still remaining 6th-best in Irish history and best since John Lundgren's 74.40 in 1979-80 ... Weeks dropped his season stroke average to 75.04, ranking 7th in the Irish record book ... Notre Dame's 878 (+26) total at Marhsall trails only the 873 (+9) at last fall's Legends of Indiana among top Irish 54-hole scores ... the record-setting Irish stroke avg. for 1997-98 has improved to 296.25 (74.06 per counted score), including 294.73 in the spring (8 of 11 rounds under 300) ... Weeks has shot 75 or lower in seven of his last eight rounds and in 40 of his 90 career rounds.
NCAA NOTES: Notre Dame--which entered the week ranked 8th in the Midwest District--has one remaining scheduled tournament, April 18-19 at the OSU Intercollegiate ... the district committee will select six teams and one individual or five teams and six individuals, based on several criteria, to represent the Midwest at the NCAA Central Regional ... Saturday's results yielded several key head-to-head victories for the Irish, helping tie the season series 2-2 vs. Kentucky (-19 shots) and Wisconsin (-9) while giving the Irish a 2-1 lead on Toledo (-8), Akron (even), Eastern Kentucky (+20) and Michigan (+2) ... Notre Dame now owns a 3-2 head-to-head edge on Ball State, in addition to a +44 stroke differential ... Notre Dame has faced 39 of the other 42 Midwest district teams during 1997-98 and trails only seven of them head-to-head: Illinois (0-4, -49), Miami (1-3, -40), Kent (0-1, -41), Indiana (1-2, -25), Minnesota (0-1, -7), Ohio State (0-1, -12) and Northwestern (0-1, -5) ... all seven of those squads will be at the upcoming 16-team OSU Intercollegiate ... other key matchups for the Irish at OSU will include Toledo, Wisconsin, BSU and Michigan.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (54 holes): 1. Illinois 284-292-286/862; 2. Ohio State 295-292-279/866; 3. Marshall 282-285-286/862; 4. Indiana 291-289-289/869; 5. Minnesota 291-290-290/871; 6. Northwestern 294-294-285/873; 7. Miami (OH) 288-288-298/874; 8. Notre Dame 294-301-283/878; 9. Michigan 300-291-288/879; 10. Louisville 305-289-286/880; 11. Ball State 288-290-305/883; 12. Toledo 308-282-294/884; 13. Akron 291-293-300/884; 14. Kentucky 301-296-295/891; 15. Michigan State 304-294-295/893; 16. Wisconsin 302-299-293/894; 17. Eastern Kentucky 308-290-300/898; 18. Ohio 300-300-305/905; 19. Murray State 302-299-306/907; 20. Eastern Michigan 308-299-303/910.
TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 100): 1. Michael Harris (MICH) 72-67-69/208; 2. Jeff Connell (ND) 70-69-70/209; Kyle Voska (MIA) 65-72-72/209; 4. Ed Parga (ILL) 68-71-73/212; Josh Brewer (IU) 71-69-72/212; 6. D. A. Points (ILL) 72-72-69/213; Matt Querry (TOL) 73-70-71/213; 8. Randy Leen (IU) 71-71-72/214; 9. Keith Hinton (MICH) 73-72-70/215; James McLean (MINN) 73-70-72/215; Mike Austin (OSU) 75-74-66/215.
OTHER ND SCORES: 19. Bryan Weeks 72-75-70/217; 60. Todd Vernon 76-78-71/225; 72. Willie Kent 76-81-72/229; 81. Brad Hardin 79-79-83/231.