April 19, 1998

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Notre Dame men’s golf team took a possible final step towards qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, surging to a sixth-place finish among 16 of the Midwest District’s top teams Sunday at the 29th Ohio State Kepler Intercollegiate.

Notre Dame stood in sixth after Saturday’s opening round of 298 in the play-four/count-five format before slipping back to seventh with a round of 303 in the afternoon. But the Irish bounced back in Sunday’s final round at the par-72, 7,109-yard OSU Scarlet Golf Course, turning in a round of 294 for an 895 total.

Michigan slipped from sixth place to 12th with a final-round 314 while fifth-place Illinois used a final-round 295 to best the Irish by six strokes (889). The host Buckeyes took the team title (863), outdistancing runner-up Northwestern (878) by 15 strokes, while Miami of Ohio took third (883) and Toledo fourth (887).

Junior Willie Kent (76-76-69) and sophomore Todd Vernon (75-73-73) tied for 14th among the 82-golfer field with matching totals of 221 while surging sophomore Jeff Connell (72-77-75) was not far behind at 224. Kent joined two other golfers in firing the second-best round of the tournament (three-under 69), trailing only the first-round 68 posted by OSU’s Ryan Armour.

Senior Brad Stanis (75-79-77) counted towards the Irish score in the first and third rounds while senior captain Bryan Weeks (78-77-81) concluded a frustrating tournament in which he counted only in the second round (he had counted in 22 of the previous 24 rounds of 1997-98). The uncharacteristic showing equaled the third-worst 54 hole total in Weeks’ career at Notre Dame (25 tournaments), trailing only a 240 at the challenging fall of 1996 San Francisco Invitational (held at the Olympic Club Lake Course) and a 237 at the spring of ’95 Kent State Invitational.

FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (54 holes): 1. Ohio State 280-285-298/8632. Northwestern 299-291-288/8783. Miami (OH) 294-294-295/8834. Toledo 294-297-296/8875. Illinois 292-302-295/8896. Notre Dame 298-303-294/895;7. Purdue 303-300-297/9008. Indiana 300-302-300/9029. Michigan State 307-304-292/90310. Ball State 296-308-300/904    Kent 300-303-301/90412. Michigan 301-295-301/90413. Wisconsin 307-305-299/91114. Marshall 299-313-309/92115. Iowa 311-311-307/92916. Ohio 304-317-309/930  TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 82):  1. Tee McCabe, MIA, 71-70-69/2102. Craig Matthew, OSU, 70-69-72/2113. Luke Donald, NW, 75-70-70/2154. Ryan Armour, OSU, 68-73-75/2165. Mark Henderson, ILL, 73-72-72/2176. Kyle Voska, MIA, 72-73-73/218   Matt Riegel, MSU, 76-72-70/2188. Randy Leen, IU, 72-72-75/219   Jon Mills, KENT, 72-77-70/219   Jess Daley, NW, 74-74-71/219   Mike Austin, OSU, 70-73-76/219 
ND SCORES: 14. Todd Vernon 75-73-73/22114. Willie Kent 76-76-69/22123. Jeff Connell 72-77-75/22450. Brad Stanis 75-79-77/23170. Bryan Weeks 78-77-81/236

NCAA NOTES: The Irish entered the week ranked 8th in the District, after placing 8th out of 20 teams at the Marshall Invitational … Notre Dame’s strong spring has included 9th-place out of 20 teams at the Golden Ocala (Fla.) Intercollegiate, the team title at the 15-team Butler Invitational and a runner-up showing at the 20-team Kentucky Intercollegiate … the district committee will select either six teams and one additional individual or five teams and six individuals to represent the Midwest at the NCAA Central Regional tournament, May 4-6 at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas … a team’s district ranking will be one of several criteria weighed by the committee … Notre Dame has no scheduled tournaments remaining, although the Irish may be added to one more tournament in the coming weeks … the district committee will hold a selection conference call on May 5 … Notre Dame has faced 39 of the other 42 teams in the district during 1997-98 and trails only five of them in head-to-head record: Illinois (0-5, -55 strokes), Miami of Ohio (1-4, -52), Ohio State (0-2, -44), Northwestern (0-2, -22) and Minnesota (0-1, -7) … possible teams that are in contention with the Irish for an NCAA berth are Kent (1-1, -32), Indiana (2-2, -18), Kentucky (2-2, -19), Toledo (2-2, -16), Akron (2-1, E) and Michigan (3-1, +17) … the Irish also trail just six district teams in spring head-to-head meetings: Illinois (0-2, -22), Miami (1-3, -24), OSU (0-2, -44), Northwestern (0-2, -22), Minnesota (0-1 , -7) and Toledo (1-2, -19) … Notre Dame has some strong spring results vs. Kent (1-0, +9), Kentucky (2-0, +30), Akron (2-0, +30), Michigan (3-0. +40) and Indiana (1-1, -2).

TEAM NOTES: Kent (1,037 strokes/74.07 avg.), Connell and Vernon (both 1,038/74.14) have nearly identical numbers over the five spring tournaments … Notre Dame has shot below 300 in 10 of 14 spring rounds, including six of the last eight … Vernon dropped his 1997-98 stroke average to 74.59, sliding below Bill Cvengros (74.64, 1967-68) into 5th on the Irish all-time list (since ’54)… Vernon owns the best season stroke average at Notre Dame since 1979-80 (John Lundgren, 74.40) … Weeks ranks 8th on the season stroke avg. list (75.44) while Connell has moved up to 9th (75.44) … Vernon dropped his career stroke avg. from 75.51 to 75.39 (3rd all-time at Notre Dame and best since Charles Thurn’s 74.43 1958) … Weeks remains 4th in Irish history with a 76.22 career stoke avg. while Connell has surged to 5th (76.27) … the team stroke average for 1997-98 fell off slightly, to 298.33 (still ahead of the record of 300.07, set in 1979-80)–for a solid 74.58 per round counted to the team score … Kent (-3), Weeks (-3) and Connell (-2) all have turned in rounds of 69 during 1997-98 while Vernon (-3) did so as a freshman … 69 is the lowest score by an Irish golfer since Dave Knee and Tim Saurs carded 68s in 1977-78 (Irish golfers have totaled a 69 during 16 rounds since ’78) … Vernon and Connell have counted to the team score in 25 of 27 rounds during 1997-98 (Vernon has counted in 40 of 44 career rounds, Connell in 29 of 33).