Illinois men’s golf wins third tournament in a row for first time in 20 years

Mens golf coach Mike Small speaks with his team during practice at the University of Illinois Golf Course.

The Daily Illini File Photo

Mens golf coach Mike Small speaks with his team during practice at the University of Illinois Golf Course.

By Rich Mayor

The recent success of the Illinois men’s golf team raises one question: Will they ever lose?

The No. 1-ranked Illini took home their third consecutive title of the fall Monday, winning the D.A. Weibring Invitational by a whopping 18 strokes. Illinois finished the tournament, hosted by Illinois State in Normal, Ill., with a nine-under par 831. Illinois State placed second with a score of 849. The victory marked the first time in 20 years that Illinois has won three straight tournaments.

“We played well,” head coach Mike Small said. “We had the low rounds every round which is great, but I think as a whole and as a team we could’ve played a little better. But when you get a 64 in the first round and a 64 in the last round and a couple 67s in between, that’s going to take care of a lot of problems.”

Illinois also had prodigious individual success, as sophomore Scott Langley took home individual medalist honors, going 64-67-70 to finish nine-under par, three strokes ahead of Illinois State’s Kyle Bragg.

“(Sunday), both rounds I played really solid,” Langley said. “In the first round I got off to kind of a shaky start but really turned it around. It just kind of happened, I played really solid and before I knew it I’d shot six-under. The second round (Sunday) was pretty much the same; I didn’t make as many birdies but played really consistently. (Monday) I didn’t really play that bad, I say I struggled because my ball striking really wasn’t as good as it was yesterday. But I was really proud of the way I hung in there, and my short game really helped me grind it out and save the tournament (Monday).”

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    The Illini entered the final round ahead of the Redbirds by only three shots, but then freshman Luke Guthrie decided to flash the brilliance Illinois golf fans could expect to see over the next four years. The highly touted Guthrie, playing in his second collegiate tournament, fired a sterling six-under 64 and paced the Illini to a round of four-under-par, effectively pulling away from the flailing Redbirds.

    “Luke’s a good player,” Small said. “We know he’ll have rounds like this but we just to help him to be more like Scott in his consistency. But he’s still getting his feet wet; we can’t always expect this out of him because he’s a freshman. He’s going to be up-and-down, but this 64 shows his potential and we expect more of that from him.”

    Guthrie finished the tournament at two-under-par who tied for third with junior Matt Hoffman. It was Hoffman’s second straight top-10 finish. Junior Zach Barlow finished tied for 13th at six-over-par, and sophomore Chris DeForest tied for 24th with a nine-over-par 219.

    Illinois, after winning the Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields Invitational and Windon Memorial Classic in the past month, was heavy favorites entering the Weibring. The nationally top-ranked squad now leaves its fate to the formulas of the Golfweek computer, which places great importance in strength of schedule when computing the rankings. The Weibring featured no ranked teams aside from the Illini, and an 18-stroke blowout victory might not be enough to hold the No. 1 spot.