September 10, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The Notre Dame men’s and women’s golf teams open their 1998 fall seasons this weekend, with both squads again taking ultimate aim at claiming one of the Midwest’s bids in the NCAA Championship.
The Irish men’s golf team-which last spring came close to capturing the program’s first NCAA bid since 1966 sends what could be one of the most talented starting fivesomes in the program’s history to the Air Force Falcon/Cross Creek Invitational, to be held at the par-72, 7,301-yard Eisenhower Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colo. The mammoth 23-team field will include squads from throughout the nation, with three 18-hole rounds to be played from Friday-Sunday, Sept. 11-13.
Notre Dame tied for 12th out of 23 teams at last year’s Falcon Invitational, with play-five/count-four rounds of 302-305-289. Current junior co-captain and Englewood, Colo. native Todd Vernon paced the Irish by tying for 24th at 221 (73-75-73). Two other current members of the starting five–junior Jeff Connell (78-75-72/225) and senior co-captain Brad Hardin (84-75-71/230)also participated in the 1997 Falcon Invitational.
The huge tournament field includes two other schools from the Midwest–Illinois and Xavier–in addition to a pair of teams from the west coast in the University of California and the University of San Diego. Entrants from the Rocky Mountain region include host Air Force, plus Boise State, Colorado, Eastern Washington, Grand Canyon, Idaho State, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Southern Utah, Utah, Weber State, Wichita State and Wyoming. Rounding out the field are Georgia Southern, Missouri, Texas Wesleyan and Tulane.
The Notre Dame women head to East Lansing, Mich. as one of 13 entrants in the Michigan State/Mary Fossum Invitational. The two-day tournament will be held Sept. 12-13 at the par-72, 5,826-yard Forest Akers West course, with 36 holes on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. In addition to host MSU, the field includes Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Western Michigan, Illinois, Illinois State, Kent, Michigan, Oakland, Ohio, Toledo and Wisconsin.
The Irish women also opened their 1997-98 campaign at the MSU Invitational, placing fourth out of 14 teams after rounds of 320-323-326. Current junior captain Andrea Klee (Appleton, Wis.) led the Irish by tying for 10th place with rounds of 79-80-81/240. Other current players who competed at last year’s MSU event include junior Beth Cooper (81-86-84), sophomore Mary Klein (81-85-85/251), sophomore Becca Schloss (85-84-83/252), junior Brigid Fisher (88-88-83/259) and sophomore Danielle Villarosa (92-83-89/264).
MEN’S GOLF NOTES: Notre Dame is led by the veteran leadership of Hardin (Martinsville, Ind.), senior Willie Kent (Asuncion, Paraguay), Vernon and Connell (LaCrosse, Wis.) while promising newcomer Kyle Monfort (Dublin, Ohio) rounds out the starting five … Kent shot just one shot better than both Connell and Vernon in five tournaments last spring to finish atop the team stroke-average list … Vernon led the Irish in 1997-98 with a 74.59 stroke average over 27 rounds, during which he captured medalist honors at the BIG EAST Conference Championship (141) while also pacing the Irish at the Falcon Invitational (24th, 221), the Golden Ocala Intercollegiate (7th, 220) and the Ohio State Intercollegiate (15th, 221).
Kent led the Irish during the 1998 spring, after transferring from St. Louis University, with a 74.07 stroke average that included a team-best finish at the Johnny Owens/Kentucky Intercollegiate (4th, 218) and a tie with Vernon for 15th at the OSU Intercollegiate … Connell averaged 75.48 strokes in 19997-98, highlighted by team-best showings at the Legends of Indiana (21st, 217) and the Marshall Invitational (2nd, 209) … Hardin led the Irish during 1997-98 at the Louisville Intercollegiate (30th, 153) while averaging 76.75 strokes per round … the only golfer lost from the starting five is graduate Bryan Weeks (75.44 avg. in 1997-98, 76.22 career avg. over 93 rounds) … Vernon’s 75.39 career avg. ranks third-highest in recorded Notre Dame history (since 1954) and highest by an Irish golfer since 1962 while Connell ranks fifth with a 76.27 career avg.
WOMEN’S GOLF NOTES: The Irish are looking to overcome the loss of graduates Katie King (81.42) and Tracy Melby (81.79), who posted the top-two career stroke averages in Irish women’s golf history … Klee averaged 81.13 strokes over the full 24 rounds in 1997-98, trailing only King (Irish record 79.50) and Melby (80.50), followed by Klein (82.00) and Cooper (83.48) … Klee led the Irish with a 10th-place showing at MSU in the fall of ’97 (240) while Klein paced the squad with a fifth-place finish at the Indiana Invitational (230) … Schloss averaged 84.06 strokes over 18 rounds, including a team-best sixth place at the Notre Dame Invitational in Bonita Bay, Fla. (243) … Villarosa averaged 85.50 as a freshman over eight rounds while Fisher posted an 87.82 average last year over 11 rounds.