October 31, 1998

BETHESDA, Md. (10/31/98) — The University of Notre Dame men’s golf team faces a nine-shot deficit in its quest for a fourth straight BIG EAST Conference championship, following first-round action Saturday at the par-71, 6,416-yard TPC Avenel Course.

Host team Georgetown stands in first place after an opening-round 303 in the play-five/count-four format, giving the Hoyas a five-shot cushion on Seton Hall (308) while Notre Dame (312) is nine shots off the pace.

The Irish have history on their side, after rallying from a 13-stroke deficit to defeat first-round leader Connecticut by five shots at the 1995 BIG EAST Championship, which also was held at TPC Avenel. Notre Dame then returned to TPC Avenel in the fall of ’96 and nearly squandered a 12-shot lead on host Georgetown before holding on for a dramatic one-shot win. The Irish won the ’97 BIG EAST title at their home course, Blackthorn Golf Club, outdistancing runner-up Seton Hall by a comfortable 32 strokes.

Notre Dame’s top two golfers of the 1998 fall season again led the way on Saturday, with freshman Kyle Monfort (Dublin, Ohio) firing a four-over 75 to earn a share of fourth while senior co-captain Brad Hardin (Martinsville, Ind.) is alone in eighth place after an opening 77. Hardin, the only current Irish golfer to have played in a previous BIG EAST Championship at TPC Avenel, finished as runner-up at the ’96 event thanks to rounds of 70-74.

Georgetown’s Andreas Huber leads the individual competition after an opening-round 69, followed by Seton Hall’s Mike Costigan and Scott Hawley (both at 74).

Irish senior Willie Kent is one of three golfers tied for ninth after a first-round 78. Notre Dame and Georgetown are the only teams with three players among the top 11 but the Irish were hurt by their failure to post a stronger fourth score. Junior co-captain Todd Vernon-who captured BIG EAST medalist honors last year at Blackthorn (70-71)-continued his frustrating fall by carding an 82 while classmate Jeff Connell failed to count to the team score for just the sixth time in 45 career rounds, after firing a 12-over 83.

A rejuvenated Vernon could be the key to an Irish comeback, as he has shot under 74 just once in 12 rounds this fall after leading the Irish with a 74.59 stroke average in the 1997-98 season (when he shot under 74 in 13 of his 27 rounds).

TEAM STANDINGS (18 holes of 36):
1. Georgetown 303; 6. Villanova 324;
2. Seton Hall 308; 7. Rutgers 325;
3. Notre Dame 312; 8. Boston College 326;
4. St. John’s 313; 9. Providence 342.
5. Connecticut 322;
1. Andreas Huber (GU) 69; 7. Andrew McKay (SJ) 76;
T2.Mike Costigan (SHU) 74; 8. Brad Hardin (ND) 77;
T2.Scott Hawley (SHU) 74; T9.Patrick Dunn (BC) 78;
T4.Greg Koush (GU) 75; T9.Willie Kent (ND) 78;
T4.Ryan MacDonald (RUT) 75; T9. Matt Finger (GU) 78.
T4.Kyle Monfort (ND) 75;

OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES: 25. Todd Vernon 82; 31. Jeff Connell 83.