Men’s golf sinks homecoming win

 

 

By Lee Ann Sangalang

Trailing DePaul by five strokes after the first round, the Illinois men’s golf team pulled out all the stops to take a first-place finish at the Illini Spring Invitational this past weekend at Stone Creek Golf Course.

After the Illini finished the first round 10-over par on Saturday, all of Illinois’ players improved their scores on Sunday to move the team to a combined score of 609 strokes, seven ahead of second-place Southern Illinois, to take the title. Although the tournament was shortened from 54 holes to 36 due to inclement weather, the conditions didn’t seem to hinder Illinois.

“It’s always nice to come out with the win; it’s the reason you go into any tournament is to take the win,” head coach Mike Small said. “But with the shortened tournament especially, it usually brings a lot of the teams together, and for us to fight for the win was great.”

This tournament marked the second-straight team win this season after Illinois took the Marshall Invitational title last weekend. The Illini also won the Tinervin Cup on Feb. 16.

Redshirt sophomore Matt Hoffman continued his consistently excellent play, taking the individual title at the tournament with a 4-over par 148.

Hoffman and junior Jon Krick began the opening round tied with DePaul’s Nick Martin at 75 strokes apiece, all trailing DePaul’s Cory Blenkush’s 74-stroke first round. Hoffman took the title after completing a tournament-best 73-stroke second round, which gave him the edge over Martin and Blenkush’s 74-stroke and 79-stroke rounds, respectively.

“Matt is reaping the benefits of his work in the offseason,” Small said. “He still has improvements to make, but he’s been making improvements every tournament.”

Hoffman’s success has been a continuation of the past few tournaments he has competed in.

After leading the Illini at the Louisiana Classic and Barona Cup, Hoffman placed ninth in the Illini’s victory at the Marshall Invitational. Hoffman joins freshmen Scott Langley and Chris DeForest as the only three title-winners this season. Rounding out the Illinois lineup, Langley tied for 11th place at 10-over par 154, Zach Barlow tied for 13th place, and Krick and Mark Ogren finished in a tie for 24th place.

Playing the tournament as individuals, their scores not factored into the overall team score, junior Larry Blatt and DeForest each finished in fourth place at 7-over par 151.

Frank Alafoginis finished in 24th and Clayton Parkhill finished tied for 51st.

This is the first tournament to be played on Illinois’ home course since 1987, and the first time it has hosted anyone since 2001, when the team had a dual meet with Illinois State.

The Illini travel to West Lafayette, Ind., next week for the Boilermaker Invitational, where they will get a feel for what the NCAA Championships course will feel like. The tournament will wrap up the regular season before the Illini head to the Big Ten Championships at Michigan State.

“Right now, we’re not thinking about the postseason just yet,” Small said. “We still have two big tournaments coming up, and we want to formalize our lineup. It’s good we have six or seven guys that are capable of being in that lineup. It’s really up to them in how focused they’re going to be and how well they’re going to shoot.”