April 20, 2010
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – The Notre Dame men’s golf team came agonizingly close to collecting its seventh BIG EAST Conference title, carding a three-round total of 22-over par 874 (299-289-286) and finishing a solitary stroke behind Georgetown as the conference tournament concluded on Tuesday afternoon on the Innisbrook Resort/Copperhead Course (par 71/7,125 yards) in Palm Harbor, Fla.
The Fighting Irish entered the day in fifth place, eight strokes behind Georgetown, but Notre Dame fashioned another of its patented final-round rallies at the BIG EAST Championship, firing the low round of the tournament (+2, 286) to put the pressure on the Hoyas. However, GU’s Vincenzo Salina sank an eight-foot par putt on the 18th hole to blunt the Fighting Irish charge and give the Hoyas their first conference crown since 1998.
Salina actually played the villain twice for Notre Dame fans within the span of an hour, as he drained a 25-foot birdie putt to win the BIG EAST individual title on the first hole of a four-man sudden death playoff that also featured Fighting Irish sophomores Max Scodro (Chicago, Ill./Notre Dame Prep [Ariz.]) and Tom Usher (Bradford, England/Guiseley School). Scodro and Usher tied Salina and Evan Beirne of St. John’s for first through the regulation 54 holes, with all four players shooting two-over par 215.
Notre Dame announced its intent early as, in succession, Chris Walker (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) Usher and Scodro each birdied the first hole. Usher went on to shoot a two-under par 69 to tie for the lowest round of the day. Like the Irish team, he came just as close to earning the individual championship. After his birdie at the first, Usher notched three pars and then added a birdie at the fifth. He then closed out the front nine with four more pars to card a two-under par 32. He continued his march through the back nine, notching pars on the next six holes. Then, at the par-four 16th, Usher’s approach flew the hole and landed in the rough 15-feet off the back of the green. But Usher was able to bump-and-run his chip into the hole for another dramatic birdie. Then, a day after acing the 17th, Usher recorded a par to stand at three-under par through 55 holes. But a bogey at the 18th brought him back to two-under par and ultimately placed him in the four-man playoff.
Along with Usher’s 69, the Irish counted an even-par 71 as well as a trio of two-over par 73’s in a total team effort. Josh Sandman (Greensboro, N.C./Southeast Guilford) turned in the even-par 71. After struggling through the first two rounds, the senior ensured his final BIG EAST Championship appearance counted. He recorded pars on his first four holes before notching a birdie at the fifth and a bogey at the sixth. He followed with six pars and then a bogey at the 13th. He rebounded to card a birdie at the 14th and then recorded pars on the remaining four holes.
Scodro, who started the day in third, played the front nine at one-over par. He opened the back nine with two pars but then bogeyed the 12th and doubled the 13th. But he rebounded quickly and played his final two holes at a two-under par clip that included birdies on the 14th and 17th holes to keep the pressure on Georgetown.
Senior Doug Fortner (Tustin, Calif./Foothill) again got off to a slow start – he was two-over par after two holes of play- but he grinded out a strong finish that included 10 pars and a birdie on his final 11 holes of play. His birdie came on the par-five 14th.
Notre Dame ScoresT-1. Max Scodro (71-71-73-215)T-1. Tom Usher (75-71-69-215)T-23. Chris Walker (79-70-73-222)T-34. Doug Fortner (76-77-73-226)T-37. Josh Sandman (77-79-71-227)