Men’s golf heads to Big Ten tourney

By Lee Ann Sangalang

The Illinois men’s golf team looks to cash in on its young blood this weekend in the three-day Big Ten Tournament in East Lansing, Mich.

“We’re taking the same lineup we had (at the Boilermaker Invitational),” assistant coach Zach Guthrie said. “We had seven guys competing for five spots all year. It came down to who was playing the best right now.”

The lineup features four underclassmen, only one of which has played in the tournament before – redshirt sophomore Matt Hoffman.

Meanwhile, freshman Scott Langley is the sole individual who has been in the Illini lineup for every tournament, while freshman Chris DeForest holds the school record for his score at the D.A. Weibring Invitational.

All three individuals won titles this season.

Rounding out the underclassmen is sophomore Zach Barlow, who has played in all but two tournaments and holds the highest stroke average for the fall and spring seasons combined at 73.44 strokes.

Illinois comes off a sixth-place finish at the Boilermaker Invitational this past weekend, a three-over par (860) performance, six strokes behind the second-place finisher Michigan State.

“Purdue was a success,” Guthrie said. “Since we just got back on Sunday and were off to this tournament on Thursday, we didn’t have a lot of time to make changes in the lineup.”

Illinois placed higher than Big Ten rivals Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern at the Boilermaker Invitational and also ahead of Penn State and Ohio State at the Marshall Invitational on April 5, putting them right into the competition.

Taking the title of the Big Ten Tournament would automatically give Illinois a spot in the NCAA Regional.

The remaining spots will be awarded to teams ranked higher than approximately 60th place in the Golfweek computer rankings.

Illinois was No. 55 nationally in the latest rankings, sixth among Big Ten schools.

“We’re coming into this weekend trying to get loose and play with confidence,” Guthrie said. “If we come out and play the best, we can definitely contend for the title.”