Big East Just One Big Sandtrap

The St. John’s golf team entered the final day of competition with their eyes on the prize, but tough weather conditions and a red hot Virginia Tech squad made sure the Johnnies finished in third place at the Big East Championships at Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Ind., on April 20-21.

“We were hoping to finish in first,” said senior Joe Saladino. “With golf especially, you can have a couple guys get hot, so we felt good about our chances.”

The Red Storm shot a 22-over par 302 in the final two rounds and ended up 31 strokes behind defending champion Virginia Tech and four strokes behind Notre Dame. “I thought my guys played pretty good,” said Head Coach Frank Darby. “It was a very demanding golf course.”

St. John’s entered the second day of competition in second place, just seven shots behind the Hokies, but couldn’t close the gap on the final 18 holes.

Andrew Svoboda led the way for the Johnnies, finishing in a tie for second place with Notre Dame’s Steve Ratay. Virginia Tech’s Johnson Wagner was the top individual performer, shooting a one-over par 211 for the tournament. “That kid from Virginia Tech played really well on the back nine,” Svoboda said. “He made some birdies early and was able to stay ahead.”

Svoboda, who went into the final day of competition with the individual lead, shot a four-over par on the second day.

For his performance, the junior was named to the All-Big East team, one of eight golfers to receive that honor.

Teammate Jesse Fitzgerald was also an All-Big East selection. Fitzgerald entered the final day in seventh place at five-over par, just four shots off the lead. The senior finished in a tie for seventh place at 10-over par.

“Every time those guys tee it up, they’re the favorites in any tournament they play in,” Darby said. “It’s pretty tough to make All-Big East, and both of those guys are worthy of that honor.”

The other three members of the Red Storm squad all ended up placing in the top 25.

Saladino tied for 14th place at 17-over par, John DeForest finished in a tie for 18th at 19-over par and Kyle Sleasman finished in 25th place at 25-over par.

While Virginia Tech earned a spot in the NCAA Golf Tournament with the win, St. John’s now has to wait and see if they will be chosen as an at-large team to compete in the NCAA Regionals. “I think we’ve done enough during the year to get ourselves in,” Saladino said. “We feel pretty confident.”

“I think it’s not even a waiting game,” Darby said. “We’re pretty much locked in the third spot in the East with four teams getting the bid.”

If chosen, the Regional will be held from May 16-18 at Settingdown Creek in Atlanta, Georgia.