Sept. 19, 1999
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Notre Dame men’s golf team saw its lead shrink slightly but still held on for a wire-to-wire first-place finish-and a team-record score-in Sunday’s final-round action at the Air Force Falcon-Cross Creek Invitational, held at the par-72, 7,301-yard Eisenhower Blue Golf Course.
Irish senior captain and local product Todd Vernon (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek High School). failed to hold onto his slim lead among the 120-player field, slipping to third place after a final-round 75. Vernon-whose opening-round 66 on Friday was the best round by an Irish golfer in 37 years-posted a three-round total of four-under 212 to finish five shots behind Michigan’s Michael Harris (67-71-69) and four strokes behind Grand Canyon’s John Davis (69-72-67).
Vernon tied the Notre Dame record for best 54-hole tournament score (in relation to par), equaling the four-under total that has twice been posted by his classmate Jeff Connell: at the Marshall Invitational in the spring of 1998 (209, at the par-71 Guyan Country Club) and at the par-72 Kentucky Invitational in the spring of ’99 (212). Vernon’ 212 total also is tied with Connell’s 212 for second in the Irish record book for overall score.
Notre Dame headed into the final round with a 12-stroke cushion on the 24-team field, thanks in large part to a team-record round of 13-under 275 in Friday’s opening round. The Irish closed with a 302 on Sunday for a total of four-over 868, besting the team record of nine-over 873 at the Legends of Indiana Intercollegiate in the fall of 1997. Notre Dame came two strokes shy of equaling the team record for best overall 54-hole score, set last spring at the par-70 Kent State Collegiate (866, +26).
The team title is the 12th in the history of Notre Dame golf (among fields of 10-plus teams)-since competition shifted to stroke-play in 1962-and ranks as easily the largest field ever defeated by a winning Notre Dame team. The previous record was set at the 18-team 1997 Butler Spring Invitational, when the Irish bested 17 other teams.
Runner-up Wyoming shot a final-round 298 to finish eight shots behind the Irish, followed by three teams that tied for third at 881: Grand Canyon, New Mexico State and Midwestern rival Michigan.
Notre Dame sophomore Steve Ratay-who played for the Irish during the spring of his freshman year-closed out an impressive fall debut performance, tying for 11th with a career-best 219 total (70-72-77). Junior Alex Kent-who transferred from Saint Louis University prior to the 1998-99 season but did not play last season-also had a steady weekend, finishing tied for 26th with a 222 total (74-73-75).
Connell bounced back from his second-round 82-all the more shocking after he had opened with a 67-by posting a final-round 75 for a 224 total and a share of 36th.
Junior Adam Anderson-who like Kent was making his first appearance with the Irish-slipped to an 80 on Sunday for a 227 total (72-75-80) and a tie for 52nd.
Anderson’s first two rounds helped provide the winning margin for the Irish in the final standings, as his first-round 72 saved two strokes in the play-five, count-four format (allowing the Irish to throw out Kent’s 74). Then, in the second round, Anderson’s 75 saved seven shots off the team score as Connell’s 82 did no harm to the team total.
NOTES: Vernon’s big weekend dropped his career stroke average from 75.89 to 75.66, remaining fifth-best in recorded team history (since 1954). Connell remains sixth on that list, after dropping his career average from 75.97 to 75.91. … Vernon has counted to the Irish four-man score in 69 of 80 career rounds-tying Joel Hepler (1993-97) for fourth-most at Notre Dame during the 1990s (1998 graduate Bryan Weeks counted in 80 rounds while ’97 grad Brian Donohoe counted 77 times and ’99 grad Brad Hardin counted in 70). … Connell has counted in 57 of 67 career rounds, good for seventh all-time at Notre Dame (Chris O’Connell counted in 60.5 rounds from 1991-95). … Vernon has now lead the Irish at eight career tournaments, tied for eighth all-time at Notre Dame (since 1968) and tied with Hepler for fourth-best in the 1990s (behind Weeks’ 13, Donohoe’s 10 and Chris Dayton’s 10 from 1990-93).
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (54 holes): 1. Notre Dame 275-291-302/868, 2. Wyoming 283-295-298/876, 3. Grand Canyon 286-298-297/881, New Mexico State 292-287-302/881, Michigan 287-296-298/881, 6. Air Force 290-288-307/885, 7. Texas-Wesleyan 292-292-304/888, 8. Xavier 285-298-308/891, 9. Idaho State 290-299-307/896, 10. Boise State 294-297-309/900, San Diego 297-291-312/900, Utah State 291-299-310/900, 13. Utah 296-306-299/901, 14. Air Force-B 301-288-313/902, 15. Weber State 295-302-308/905, 16. New Mexico-B 293-304-309/906, 17. Colorado-Colo. Springs 295-310-305/910, 18. Eastern Washington 303-305-303/911, 19. Tulane 297-306-309/912, 20. Portland State 303-300-311/914, 21. Illinois 309-298-314/919, 22. Tennessee-Chattanooga 307-298-314/919, 23. Southern Utah 306-305-312/923, 24. Denver 305-308-314/927.
TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 120): 1. Michael Harris (MICH) 67-71-69/207, 2. John Davis (GC) 69-72-67/208, 3. Todd Vernon (ND) 66-71-75/212, 4. Scott Lieberwish (NMSU) 71-68-74/213, 5. Tim McMillan (TXWS) 74-69-71/214, David Hearn (WYO) 68-74-72/214, 7. Ken Franklin (IDST) 69-70-76/215, 8. Jon Babich (NMSU) 70-73-74/217, Matt Sakowitz (AFA-B) 73-66-78/217, Reid Lende (WYO) 71-75-71/217.
OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES: 11. Steve Ratay 70-72-77/219, 26. Alex Kent 74-73-75/222, 36. Jeff Connell 67-82-75/224, 52. Adam Anderson 72-75-80/227.