Men’s golf swings into action

Illinois´ Garrett Chaussard tees off at Urbana Country Club on Sept. 13, 2003. Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois´ Garrett Chaussard tees off at Urbana Country Club on Sept. 13, 2003. Daily Illini File Photo

By Jon Gluskin

The Illinois men’s golf team is anxiously awaiting its first tournament of the season.

Today and Saturday, the Illini will compete in the Inverness Intercollegiate at Toledo University in Ohio. The course is known to be challenging, but Illini seniors Garrett Chaussard and Mike O’Neal are familiar with the course.

“This will be our third year playing this tournament,” O’Neal said. “We’re going to tell those guys everything we know about it.”

The remaining three spots will be filled by three freshmen – Andy Mack, Danny Zimmerman and Frank Alafoginis – who will all be playing in their first collegiate tournament.

Head coach Mike Small is eager for the start of the season and has his goals set for the weekend.

“I want to win,” Small said. “I want these five guys going into the tournament confident, positive, optimistic and excited to play. We don’t want any hesitancy or fear because it’s the first tournament. We’re going to try to win and learn.”

Winning is the Illini’s primary focus, and they aren’t afraid to admit it.

“We just want to win,” Chaussard said. “That’s the main reason we play – to go out and compete well and put ourselves in a position where we can win.”

O’Neal said the team has many factors working in its favor.

“I’m pretty confident the four guys I’m with are ready to (win) this week,” O’Neal said. “We’ve got experience and youth going this week. Hopefully we can all teach each other something.”

Chaussard believes a strong point of the team is its diverse strengths and skills.

“Each one of us is different,” Chaussard said. “We each have our different strengths. For me, my strength is my short game. We’ve got some other guys who are exceptional ball-strikers.”

The seniors are excited to get to play with their younger teammates and believe the freshmen are ready for success.

“I like having three freshmen; I feel confident with them,” Chaussard said. “I like their youthful exuberance. They seem like they’re ready to go.”

Small isn’t concerned with the competition, despite there being top 10 schools playing in the tournament. He is only concentrating on his team’s performance.

“You don’t really play against the competition,” Small said. “In golf, you can’t play defense. You just have to play against the course. You have to have some game management.”

The team appears confident as it heads into its first tournament.

“There’s really no doubt in my mind that we’re the best team in the Big Ten,” O’Neal said.