Sept. 17, 1999
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Notre Dame senior Todd Vernon (Colorado Springs, Colo./Cherry Creek High School) made the most of his homecoming on Friday at the Air Force Falcon-Cross Creek Invitational by shooting the best round by a Notre Dame golfer in 37 years-a six-under 66 in first-round action at the par-72, 7,301-yard Eisenhower Blue Golf Course.
Vernon was not alone in quality performances on Friday, as his classmate Jeff Connell posted a 67 for a share of second with Michigan’s Michael Harris. Sophomore Steve Ratay-who entered the Irish starting lineup last spring-added a 70 for Notre Dame while surprising junior Adam Anderson chipped in a 72 in his first intercollegiate tournament.
Notre Dame’s team total in the play-five, count-four format yielded a 13-under 275-blowing away the previous team record of one-under 283, set at the Marshall Invitational in the spring of 1998.
The Irish head into Saturday’s second round with an eight-stroke cushion on Wyoming and a 10-shot lead on Xavier. Two other Midwestern teams are entered in the 24-team event, with Michigan (287) standing in fifth place while a graduation-depleted Illinois squad finished last in the opening round (309). The tournament concludes with a third round on Sunday.
The start of Friday’s round was delayed one hour due to fog and play was halted later in the day as well, due to lightning.
Vernon’s seven-birdie, one-bogey round ranks second all-time in Notre Dame golf history, since intercollegiate events shifted from match-play to a stroke-play format in 1962. The only better recorded score by a Notre Dame golfer during intercollegiate play came during the 1962-63 season, when All-American Mike O’Connell shot a 64.
The memorable day for Vernon included birdies on three par-five holes (5, 9 and 11), plus birdies on the par-four 2nd and 10th and the par-three 7th and 13th. He notched four birdies over a five-hole stretch (9th-13th) before bogeying the 15th.
Vernon’s highlights include hitting his tee shot on the 13th to within a foot of the hole and twice pulling off fairway sand shots to emerge with birdies (his lone bogey also followed a fairway sand shot).
Notre Dame’s five-man lineup including another new face, as junior Alex Kent turned in a two-over 74. Kent.-the younger brother of former Irish golfer Willie Kent-elected not to play for the Irish during the 1998-99 season, after transferring from Saint Louis University.
Notre Dame has opened the previous three seasons at the Air Force Invitational, placing 10th in 1996, 12th in 1997 and seventh in 1998. The Irish average round in those previous three tournaments was 298-a full 23 shots higher than Friday’s impressive performance.
Vernon’s previous outings at Air Force include a team-best 221 in 1998 and another 221 in 1999, for an average round of 73.7 during those two events (he did not make the starting five at AFA in ’96). Connell shot 225 at Air Force in 1997 and a 219 and 1998, for a two-year average score of 74.0.
Connell entered the 1999 fall season ranked sixth in Notre Dame men’s golf history with a 75.89 career stroke average, followed closely by Vernon’s 75.97.
TEAM STANDINGS (18 holes of 54): 1. Notre Dame 275, 2. Wyoming 283, 3. Xavier 285, 4. Grand Canyon 286, 5. Michigan 287, 6. Air Force 290, Idaho State 290, 8. Utah State 291, 9. Texas-Wesleyan 292, New Mexico State 292, 11. New Mexico-B 293, 12. Boise State 294, 13. Colorado-Colo. Springs 295, Weber State 295, 15. Utah 296, 16. San Diego 297, Tulane 297, 18. Air Force-B 301, 19. Eastern Washington 303, Portland State 303, 21. Denver 305, 22. Southern Utah 306, 23. Tennessee-Chattanooga 307, 24. Illinois 309.
TOP INDIVIDUALS (of 120): 1. Todd Vernon (ND) 66, 2. Jeff Connell (ND) 67, Michael Harris (MICH) 67, 4. Jeff Marr (XAV) 68, David Hearn (WYO) 68, 6. Brock Padilla (UT) 69, John Davis (GC) 69, Scott Young (WEB) 69, Mike Arbatchka (WYO) 69, Ken Franklin (IDST) 69, David West (TXWS) 69.
OTHER NOTRE DAME SCORES: 12. Steve Ratay 70, 25. Adam Anderson 72, 42. Alex Kent 74.