Rivalry takes new course in Cincinnati

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To sports fans in Cincinnati, the annual Crosstown Shootout represents one of the city’s grand traditions.

Rivals Xavier and Cincinnati, often among the nation’s college-basketball elite, square off each December. The winner enjoys local bragging rights and, many years, an enhanced national standing.

At Maketewah Country Club, a storied Donald Ross course not far from both campuses, golf’s version of the Crosstown Shootout will be born Thursday.

XU and UC will play a 36-hole match for a traveling trophy and a year’s worth of oneupmanship. The tenor of the rivalry will be the same as in basketball, minus an ESPN audience and any trash talking.

“The guys on the team are really pumped up about it,’’ Xavier coach Doug Steiner said. “We’ve promoted it on both campuses, and I think there’s going to be a lot of people out there watching us.’’

Cincinnati head coach Doug Martin, a former PGA Tour player, called the match “a great thing for the city.’’

The format will be four players from each team in the morning competing in alternate shot. In the afternoon, four players will compete for points in singles and best-ball.

Dave Bahr, Maketewah’s head pro, called his club “a natural fit, with our proximity to both campuses. We’ve got a number of alums from both schools.’’

Both rosters are stocked with regional talent: five of 11 XU players are from Ohio, compared with 10 of 12 at UC. However, each team’s No. 1 player is from overseas: Xavier freshman Sebastian MacLean of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and UC senior Alberto Fernandez of Gijorn, Spain.

MacLean enters with a hot hand, having shot 8-under 208 to tie for first in the UMB Bank Missouri Tigers Intercollegiate. He lost on the second playoff hole to SMU’s Kelly Kraft.

Fernandez finished fifth at 5-over 221 in the recent University of Kentucky Bluegrass Invitational.

Based on the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, Xavier will be the favorite. The Musketeers are No. 98 and have three top-5 finishes in four events this spring. UC, at 217, has only one top-10 in five events, a T-6 at the Ball State Invitational.

The teams have met twice this spring, with Xavier holding the advantage. At the season-opening Ron Smith/USF Invitational, XU (14th) was 51 shots ahead of UC (23rd). At the Marshall Invitational, XU (2nd) was 25 shots in front of UC (11th).

“Xavier’s program is on a different level than ours is right now,’’ UC’s Martin said, “but I hope the matches are competitive.’’

Both teams enter their respective conference tournaments next week in Florida: Cincinnati in the Big East on April 19-21 at Lake Jovita in Dade City, and Xavier in the Atlantic 10 on April 24-26 at Orange County National near Orlando.

But this week, the focus is crosstown.

“We want to make it fun for the kids,’’ Maketewah’s Bahr said, “and make it something that they look forward to each year.’’

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