April 21, 2009
DADE CITY, Fla. — Playing in nearly perfect conditions on Tuesday, junior Doug Fortner (Tustin, Calif./Foothill) turned in a near-perfect final round at the BIG EAST Conference Championship, firing a career-low 66 (-6) to finish tied for second as the league tournament concluded on the South Course (par 72/7,031 yards) at the Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City, Fla.
Fortner carded a three-round total of six-under par 210 (73-71-66), not only tying his career-best 54-hole score (originally set during a runner-up finish at the 2007 Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic), but also winding up one stroke off the school record of 209, jointly held by Jeff Connell (1998 Marshall Invitational) and Cole Isban (2007 Border Olympics).
As a team, Notre Dame posted its second-lowest single-round score of the season and moved up one spot on the final day, finishing in fourth place at nine-over par 873 (295-292-286). Louisville took the team title at 17-under par 847, holding off a late flurry by defending champion Marquette, which finished second at 852 (-12). As was the case last year, Seton Hall (870) just managed to edge past the Irish for third place, while the tournament host, South Florida (875) rounded out the top five. Notre Dame still has never placed lower than fifth in any of its 14 BIG EAST Championship appearances (1995-present).
Louisville’s Adam Hadwin (207) was the individual medalist, finishing three shots ahead of Fortner, Marquette’s Mike Van Sickle and Hadwin’s UofL teammate, Karsten Clements. Marquette’s Matt Haase shot a tournament-record 64 in the third round to move up to fifth place at 211, sharing that spot with John Zur of Seton Hall.
Fortner’s bogey-free final-round 66 tied the third-lowest single-round score in school history and the lowest since current Irish senior co-captain Josh Sandman (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) fired a 66 in the first round of the 2006 Aloha Purdue Collegiate Invitational at Poipu, Hawaii. Fortner’s score also tied the program’s best individual round in BIG EAST Championship play, matching Mark Baldwin’s total in the final round of the 2006 conference tournament that also was held on Lake Jovita’s South Course.
Tuesday’s round capped a sizzling final 27 holes for Fortner, who played his final round and a half in an impressive nine-under par, reeling off 10 birdies against just one bogey. He finished the tournament with 16 birdies, tying Zur for second-most in the 60-man field behind Haase’s 17.
What’s more, with Fortner’s runner-up finish, Notre Dame now has had at least one golfer finish either first or second at the BIG EAST Championship nine times (and at least one top-five finisher in all 14 appearances), with Fortner being the highest finisher for the Irish at the league tourney since Baldwin took medalist honors in 2005. The California native picked up his second top-five finish of the season, and the fifth of his career, including four in the past two seasons.
Max Scodro picked up his fourth top-10 finish of the season at the BIG EAST Championship, and is believed to be the first Notre Dame freshman with four top-10 finishes in one season since the program moved from dual matches to tournament play in 1968-69.
Freshman Max Scodro (Chicago, Ill./Notre Dame Prep (Ariz.)) closed out a strong debut at the BIG EAST Championship, tying for seventh place with a career-low-tying score of three-under par 213 (71-70-72), equaling the mark he set while winning the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate Championship back on Oct. 27-28 in Greensboro, N.C.
In addition, Scodro carded his fourth top-10 finish of the season, becoming the second Notre Dame golfer in as many years to have at least four top-10 outings in one campaign — Sandman strung together five in a row during the spring of 2008, including a seventh-place tie at last year’s BIG EAST Championship, before earning a share of 65th place as an individual competitor at the NCAA Central Regional in Columbus, Ohio. Most notably, it’s believed that Scodro’s four top-10 finishes are the most recorded by a Notre Dame freshman in his rookie season since the program moved from dual matches to tournament play in 1968-69 (further research is pending).
Sophomore Jeff Chen (Walnut, Calif./Los Altos) capped off his first appearance at the BIG EAST Championship with a tie for 30th place at eight-over par 224 (74-77-73). Chen tied for 13th place in the field with 32 pars, a trait that was largely in evidence on Tuesday when he parred 10 of his first 11 holes (adding a birdie on No. 2) before temporarily stumbling with bogeys on the back nine’s two par-3 holes (Nos. 12 and 14). However, he righted himself and finished up well with pars on the closing four holes, completing a superb second season with the Irish in which he finished second on the team with a 74.42 stroke average (Fortner was tops at 74.24).
Chen’s classmates, Dustin Zhang (Calgary, Alberta/Bishop Carroll) and Connor Alan-Lee (Solana Beach, Calif./La Jolla Country Day School) completed the scoring for Notre Dame. Zhang finished in 47th place at 15-over par 231 (77-77-77), while Alan-Lee was one stroke further back in a tie for 48th place at 16-over par 232 (83-74-75) in the BIG EAST tourney debuts for both players.
The Irish, who carded the fourth-lowest season stroke average in school history (297.97) this year, will not lose a single player to graduation from their current 11-man roster, with Sandman intending to petition for a fifth year of eligibility following his season-long recovery from back surgery last summer. Along with its two all-conference returnees (Sandman and Fortner), as well as likely ’09 all-conference choice Scodro and six other players who cracked the starting lineup in at least two tournaments in 2008-09, Notre Dame will add another talented face to the mix as incoming freshman Paul McNamara III (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif./Chadwick HS) arrives on campus this fall.
— ND —
BIG EAST Championship
April 19-21, 2009
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club/South Course (Dade City, Fla.)
Par 72/7,031 yards
FINAL 54-HOLE TEAM RESULTS: 1. Louisville 847 (282-286-279); 2. Marquette 852 (292-287-273); 3. Seton Hall 870 (285-298-287); 4. NOTRE DAME 873 (295-292-286); 5. South Florida 875 (295-294-286); 6. St. John’s 883 (292-293-298); 7. DePaul 889 (297-301-291); 8. Georgetown 891 (302-291-298); 9. Rutgers 897 (301-296-300); 10. Villanova 902 (312-296-294); 11. Cincinnati 906 (304-300-302); 12. Connecticut 917 (324-292-301).
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS PLUS NOTRE DAME GOLFERS (of 60)*: 1. Adam Hadwin (LOU) 207 (70-70-67); 2. (tie) Doug Fortner (ND) 210 (73-71-66), Mike Van Sickle (MU) 210 (73-67-70) and Karsten Clements (LOU) 210 (71-71-68); 5. (tie) Matt Haase (MU) 211 (73-74-64) and John Zur (SHU) 211 (69-72-70); 7. (tie) Max Scodro (ND) 213 (71-70-72) and Riley Wheeldon (LOU) 213 (70-73-70); 9. Mike Ballo (STJ) 214 (76-69-69); 10. Alberto Fernandez (CIN) 215 (71-72-72); 30. (tie) Jeff Chen (ND) 224 (74-77-73); 47. Dustin Zhang (ND) 231 (77-77-77); 48. (tie) Connor Alan-Lee (ND) 232 (83-74-75).
* – all-conference team to be announced at a later date following vote from league coaches.