Men’s golf takes third in Big Ten

 

 

By Lee Ann Sangalang

The Illinois men’s golf team shocked the rest of the conference last weekend when it held the top spot for the first half of the Big Ten Tournament in East Lansing, Mich., beating out No. 24 Indiana and No. 25 Michigan State in the process. After the second half, the Illini finished third, but three players still placed in the top 10, two of which were freshmen.

“We came out there and took the lead early on, which we always knew we could do,” assistant coach Zach Guthrie said. “But those conditions on Saturday were cold and windy, and Michigan State really took the lead there. I think that’s when the home course advantage really comes into play. I think we had a bit of newcomer’s nervousness in there too.”

Illinois entered the third round in second place but a 10-over par performance from the Illini at the sixth and seventh holes brought the team down.

Freshman Scott Langley led the team throughout the tournament, finishing fourth with a score of one-over par (289). Langley was in second and third place at the end of the first and second rounds, respectively. The Manchester, Mo., native shot two eagles, including one in the final round. One of three titleholders this season, Langley is the only Illinois player to grace the lineup every match this season.

“This is huge for the future,” Guthrie said. “He played the last two round with two big players, one of them was Michigan State’s Ryan Brehm. Scott would have to hit a shot from 100 out to get people to clap, while Ryan could putt it 10 feet and there would just be a roar. He had the Big Ten Network following him around all weekend. Scott dealt with all this added pressure and still finished fourth in the Big Ten. That’s really a testament to all of his hard work.”

The other underclassmen and titleholders, freshman Chris DeForest and redshirt sophomore Matt Hoffman, tied for 10th place. DeForest had two birdies and shot a team-best 72 in the fourth round. Hoffman was the only player with Big Ten Tournament experience.

Sophomore Zach Barlow tied for 35th place and junior Larry Blatt finished in 46th. The young lineup will allow for the return of four starters.

“For us being a younger team, we had a really good season,” Guthrie said.

“The team finished ninth at this tournament last year so this has been a turn around season, really. Finishing third validated that. We proved we were still on our way.”

Illinois finished with a score of 30-over par (1182) in the 72-hole, four-round tournament. The team was nine strokes behind the tournament’s winner and host Michigan State.

A four-under par performance at the final three holes allowed the Illini to slip in front of No. 24 Indiana by one stroke. Because of the tournament win, the Spartans have an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional.

Illinois will most likely make an appearance at Regionals, its first since 2004. The final invitations to the NCAA Regional will be given out May 5.