Men’s golf gets off to shaky start

By Nathan Grimm

The Fighting Illini men’s golf season got off to a rough start with a 12th place finish at the Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational Tuesday in Toledo, Ohio.

The team finished tied with host Toledo, as the University of Southern California took home the title.

The Fighting Illini, without senior standout Patrick Nagle, recorded a three-round total of 931 strokes, 35 behind the Trojans.

Shining in the loss for the Illini was junior Mark Ogren, who tied for ninth overall among individuals with a +12 for the two days.

Ogren opened the tournament with a score of 77, then finished with consecutive rounds of 74 for a total of 225. Ogren, the 18th-ranked amateur in the country according to Golfweek.com, was the top scoring Illini in all three rounds of play. His ninth place finish is the third top-ten finish of his career.

“Mark is going to play a big part this year,” head coach Mike Small said.

Senior Kyle Hosick, expected to be one of the starson this year’s Illini team, struggled in the first round en route to an 81, but rebounded to shoot two consecutive 4-over 75’s to move him into a tie for 29th.

Following him were sophomore John Krick (+24), redshirt freshman Zach Barlow (+26) and sophomore Andy Shiels (+32).

Small didn’t make excuses for the team’s performance, but did point out that the course played a part in the team’s struggles.

“That’s probably the most difficult course we’ll play in college golf,” Small said.

The competition wasn’t friendly, either. The 15-team field included five teams that finished in the top-20 of last year’s NCAA Championships.

Florida, the defending champions of the Inverness Invitational and last year’s national runner-up, finished third.

Texas Christian University finished second, with a strong performance from the best individual golfer – Jon McLean. McLean shot a 1-over score of 214 for the two day tournament.

The field was tough, but Small said it won’t get much easier as the season progresses.

“We play those teams every week,” Small stated. “Our goal is to compete with them.”

Of the 75 players in the field, Ogren and Hosick were the only two Illini to finish below 55th. Those third and fourth scores are the ones that need to improve for the Illini’s depth to forsee competing with the tougher schools, Small said.

It didn’t help that the team was without the services of All-Big Ten golfer Nagle, who re-injured his hand playing in the U.S. Amateur, Small said.

Small said he expects Nagle to be back for the Illini’s next tournament when they host the Fighting Illini Invitational Sept. 24-25 at Olympia Fields Country Club.