April 4, 1998
Men's Golf Stays Hot, Takes Second at Kentucky Invitational
Kent places fourth; Irish remain in contention for NCAAs.
LEXINGTON, Kty. - Junior Willie Kent posted his second consecutive top-five finish while the Notre Dame men's golf team--just five days removed from its team title at the Butler Invitational--surged to a second-place finish Saturday at the 20-team Kentucky/Johnny Owens Invitational, held at the par-72, 6,987-yard Kearney Hill Golf Links
Notre Dame entered the final round tied with Ball State for third place at 594, just three shots behind second-place Eastern Kentucky after turning in rounds of 301-293 Friday in the play-five/count-four format. The Irish then used a final-round 294 to fly by EKU (which shot 315) and BSU (309) while outdistancing third-place Louisville by five shots.
Toledo repeated as team champion, after fashioning rounds of 291-288-292 for an 871 total and 17-shot edge on Notre Dame.
Kent--who finished as runner-up at the Butler Invite--tied for fourth in the 100-golfer field, finishing with a one-under 71 on Saturday for a 218 total, after rounds of 72 and 75 on the first day. Senior captain Bryan Weeks and junior Brad Hardin turned in final round 74s while sophomore Jeff Connell rounded out the team score with a 75.
Sophomore Todd Vernon did not count to the team score on Sunday, carding a 76, marking just the second time in 21 rounds during 1997-98 that he has not counted. Vernon' strong play on Friday (75-72) earned him a 223 and share of 19th along with Hardin, who turned in one of his most consistent tournaments of the season (75-74-74).
Weeks--the medalist at last week's Butler Invitational--finished at 225 (79-72-74) while Connell posted a 229 total (79-75-75).
Kent joined Michigan's Michael Harris (70-76-72) in a tie for fourth, four shots behind Louisville's Danny Baron (73-72-69). Miami of Ohio's Kyle Vosca (71-67-72) took home medalist honors, besting Toledo's Tim Rice (72-70-71) by three shots.
The Irish are back on the road this week at the Marshall Invitational (April 10-11), with one other tournament scheduled: the Ohio State Kepler Intercollegiate (April 18-19).
Each of Notre Dame's current starting five golfers have led the team at a tournament in 1997-98: Connell (campus championship, Legends of Indiana), Vernon (Air Force Invitational, BIG EAST Championship), Weeks (Iowa Intercollegiate, Butler Invitational), Hardin (Louisville Intercollegiate) and Kent (Kentucky Intercollegiate).
NCAA TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK: Notre Dame has surged to eighth in the Midwest District rankings after the Butler Invitational title and second-place showing at Kearney Hill ... the district committee will select either six teams and one individual or five teams and six individuals to represent the Midwest district at the NCAA Central Regional, which will be held May 14-16 at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas ... selection is based on several criteria in addition to district ranking, including: head-to-head results, stroke differential, won-loss record, strength of schedule, common opponents, stroke average, tournament place finishes, and spring results as compared to fall ... the Irish have competed vs. 36 of the other 42 district teams during 1997-98 and own a head-to-head advantage on 21 of them ...
Nine of Notre Dame's head-to-head series are tied, with the Irish owning stroke differentials in five of them: Michigan (+1 stroke), Northern Illinois (+29), Ball State (+39), Cincinnati (+40) and Bowling Green (+48) ... Notre Dame is even on head-to-head and stroke differential with Eastern Kentucky while trailing Akron by six shots, Toledo by 14 and Indiana by 16 (those head-to-heads are even) ... the Irish trail only six district teams based on head-to-head meetings: Eastern Michigan (1-2, +7), Wisconsin (1-2, -25), Kentucky (1-2, -32), Miami (1-2, -36), Kent (0-1, -41) and Illinois (0-3, -33).
NOTES: Kent has averaged 73.80 strokes per round for the Irish during the spring (8 rounds) ... Vernon and Weeks remain on pace for two of the best season stroke averages in Notre Dame history ... Vernon is averaging 74.67 strokes over 21 rounds, 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 16 strokes behind Vernon with a 75.43 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 76.38 over 87 rounds, representing the third-best mark in recorded team history (since 1954) and best by an Irish golfer since Joseph Grace's 74.56 in 1960-62 ... Vernon owns a 75.55 mark in 38 career rounds ... other Irish season stroke averages: Connell (76.43) and Hardin (76.71) ... Notre Dame's 1997-98 team stroke average continues to improve, at 299.14 (74.79 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) ...
Kent's 218 at Kearney Hill equals the fourth-best 54-hole score in Irish history, since tournament play began in 1963 ... the Irish have shot 294 or lower in six of the last seven rounds and own a 295.50 average over the three spring tournaments ... Kent has shot par or better in three of his eight rounds the spring ... Vernon has shot par or lower six times in 1997-98 while Weeks has done so six times in '97-'98, including three of his past five rounds.
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (54 holes):