April 29, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame golfing community officially opened competitive play at the Warren Golf Course on Saturday, with first-round action of the BIG EAST Conference Men’s Golf Tournament-but a group of Pirates stole the show, as upstart Seton Hall surged to the first-round lead with a score of 290, just one shy of matching the tournament record set by the Irish in 1995-96.
Notre Dame was unable to capitalize on its familiarity with the newly-opened course, as the Irish finished round one situated in fourth place at the nine-team event (304)-14 strokes behind SHU, but just seven back of St. John’s and two behind surprising Rutgers in the play-five, count-four format.
Notre Dame sophomore Steve Ratay rediscovered the magic that characterized his highly-successful 1999 fall season-as he stands alone in second place with a round of 70, just one stroke behind leader Eugene Smith of Seton Hall.
Play concludes on Sunday at the 6,744-yard course, which does not feature a posted par (a standard of 71 is being used for this tournament). The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, with SHU looking to claim just its second BIG EAST title (and first since 1992) in the 21-year history of the event.
Seton Hall-playing in the day’s second group of threesomes-could have claimed an even bigger first-round lead, but the Pirates had to throw out a 78 from their No. 2 golfer, senior Scott Hawley. SHU freshman Justin Van Hyning closed with a 35 on the back nine for a 72 while sophomore Brian McGowan chipped in a 73 and sophomore Jonas Forssell a 76.
St. John’s (297) was led on the first day by junior Andrew McKay’s 73 and Shawn Hughes paced Rutgers’ 302 total with his 74 (all five RU players shot between 74-77).
It was not a good day for the two former BIG EAST medalists in the field, as Notre Dame senior Todd Vernon posted a triple-bogey on his final hole for a 78 while Georgetown sophomore Andreas Huber struggled en route to an 83. Vernon won the ’97-’98 BIG EAST title with a tournament-record score of 141 at South Bend’s Blackthorn Golf Club while Huber matched that mark in winning last year’s title (at TPC Avenel in Bethesda, Md.).
Notre Dame’s other scores included a 77 from junior Alex Kent, a 79 from senior Jeff Connell and junior Adam Anderson’s 80.
Smith tied the BIG EAST Tournament record for lowest round and lowest in relation to par, matching the two-under 69 previously posted by Connecticut’s Brian Ahern (in ’94-’95) and by Huber last year-both at TPC Avenel. Smith appeared poised to claim the record for himself before three-putting on the 434-yard, par-four 18th. His round included one-under efforts on both nines (34-35), with five total birdies, 10 pars (including each of the first seven holes) and three bogies (on 12, 16 and 18).
Ratay-who had averaged just 76.73 strokes in his first 15 spring rounds, after posting a 71.73 in the fall-toured both nines in 35 strokes, with birdies on 5, 6, 10, 16 and 18 (a 15-footer). A weak tee shot on the par-four, 380-yard 15th yielded a double-bogey that ultimately cost Ratay the first-round lead.
Connecticut (306) lurks just two shots behind the Irish, followed by Villanova (309), Boston College (309), defending champion Georgetown (311) and Providence (317). SHU’s Van Hyning is tied for third in the individual competition at 72, along with GU’s Tristan Lewis. SHU’s McGowan and SJU’s McKay are joined by PC’s Ben Bridgeo at 73, while RU’s Hughes, UConn’s Greg Stebbins and SJU’s Andrew Svoboda are tied for eighth at 74.
Boston College, Georgetown and Providence will open the second round in the first groups of threesomes, with starting times spanning 10-minute intervals from 8:00-8:50. Notre Dame, Connecticut and Villanova then will tee off from 8:50-9:30, with the final group of Seton Hall-St. John’s-Rutgers starting from 9:40-10:20.
Anderson will be paired with UConn’s Brooks Garber and VU’s Nick Maselli while Connell is matched up with Steve Clark (UC) and Chris Ellis (VU). Vernon will tee it up with one of UConn’s top players (Sean Vique) and VU’s Garrett Feduke while Kent will play with John Humphreys (UConn) and VU’s No. 1 player, Dugan Condon. Ratay will be joined by the surprising duo of Stebbins (UConn’s No. 2) and Jeff Shookus (VU’s No. 3).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: ND struggled at the par-3 holes (+12, 2nd-worst in the tournament) but played the par-4s +17 (4th-best) and the par-5s at even par (second to SHU’s -4) … SHU (13) and ND (12) paced the first day in birdies but the Irish managed just 47 pars (to SHU’s 55) … four players finished -1 on the par-3s: PC’s Chris Tobey, SHU’s Forssell, SJU’s McKay and VU’s Maselli … GU’s Lewis owned the best par-4 scoring (-2), followed by Smith and Ratay (both E) … Ratay and Smith were among five players who posted the best aggregate score (-2) on the par-5s, with the others including BC’s Mike Tegnelia, SHU’s McGowan and VU’s Condon … Ratay’s five birdies shared for the day’s most (McKay, Smith and Lewis also had five each) … the tournament action allowed the course officials to get a sense of how different holes will hold up in a competitive setting-here’s an overview:
|1:||par 4, 372 yards||4.33 average score||4 birdies, 13 bogeys|
|2:||par 4, 462 yards||4.71 average score||1 birdie, 21 bogeys|
|3:||par 4, 393 yards||4.67 average score||2 birdies, 13 bogeys|
|4:||par 3, 143 yards||3.13 average score||7 birdies, 11 bogeys|
|5:||par 5, 518 yards||4.96 average score||12 birdies, 4 bogeys|
|6:||par 4, 436 yards||4.49 average score||4 birdies, 19 bogeys|
|7:||par 4, 398 yards||4.36 average score||5 birdies, 12 bogeys|
|8:||par 4, 414 yards||4.36 average score||5 birdies, 15 bogeys|
|9:||par 3, 185 yards||3.27 average score||3 birdies, 13 bogeys|
|10:||par 5, 495 yards||5.04 average score||11 birdies, 7 bogeys|
|11:||par 3, 216 yards||3.64 average score||1 birdie, 23 bogeys|
|12:||par 4, 443 yards||4.51 average score||3 birdies, 14 bogeys|
|13:||par 4, 433 yards||4.18 average score||6 birdies, 10 bogeys|
|14:||par 3, 197 yards||3.60 average score||1 birdie, 20 bogeys|
|15:||par 4, 380 yards||4.20 average score||5 birdies, 12 bogeys|
|16:||par 4, 345 yards||4.33 average score||5 birdies, 12 bogeys|
|17:||par 5, 480 yards||5.44 average score||4 birdies, 16 bogeys|
|18:||par 4, 434 yards||4.49 average score||4 birdies, 12 bogeys|
The toughest holes in relation to par proved to be 2 (+0.71), 3 (+0.67) and 11 (+0.64) while the 5th hole was played under par by the field (-.04), with the other “easiest” holes including 10 (+0.04) and 13 (+0.18). … three holes each produced one birdie: 2, 11 and 14.