Balls, bags and taking care of business

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Rich Mayor

The running theme for the Illinois men’s golf team this season, besides winning, has been a staggering amount of consistency. Each tournament brings an opportunity for a different golfer to shine – this week, sophomore Scott Langley shone the brightest.

Langley won this week’s D.A. Weibring Invitational in Normal, Ill., firing a 64-67-70 en route to a nine-under par 201. The victory was the second of his collegiate career.

“It feels really good,” Langley said. “This one is better than my first (the Argonaut Invitational) because I won, but our team didn’t win the tournament. So that was kind of bittersweet, but this one is great.”

No. 1 Illinois won the Weibring by a massive 18-stroke margin, marking the first time in 20 years the golf team has won three consecutive tournaments. At that time, Illini head coach Mike Small and PGA Tour member Steve Stricker walked the fairways for the Illini.

“Scott’s developing into a really solid player,” Small said. “He’s very consistent, he handles himself and his emotions on the golf course more efficiently than anybody else on the team, and he’s being rewarded for it. He actually hit a few rough spots in each of the rounds, but he fought through them and held some bad rounds together pretty well … That’s very good and very mature, and that was the key to his success.”

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    Langley, hailing from Parkway South High School in Manchester, Mo., defeated Illinois State’s Kyle Bragg by three strokes. His first and second round successes catapulted him to first place out of the gate, allowing him to shoot an even-par 70 on Monday and still pull out the victory. Langley struggled a little on Monday but fought through it, tallying one birdie, one bogey and 16 pars.

    “(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,” Langley said. “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.”

    Langley entered the season with high individual hopes after winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors last spring.

    “That was actually a really big deal for me; I was really happy when I got that,” Langley said. “It’s just an award, and I know that, but it felt great to get it because I knew how hard I worked in the off-season and last spring to get it. To get it meant a lot to me, it still does and it’s something that I can always look back on and gain confidence knowing I achieved that.”

    Confidence is something the Illini have gained in spades this year. After beginning the season unranked, Illinois opened the season with a second-place showing at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate, then began their current streak of domination. They shocked the college golf world by winning the loaded Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields Invitational, then followed with two more victories at the Windon Memorial Classic and this past week at Weibring.

    Langley’s growth this fall has helped steady the Illini through their sustained period of success.

    “He’s maturing as a player not only physically but mentally,” Small said. “He handles the up and downs very well. He handles them, and that’s why he’s become a very consistent player. He’s had finishes of ninth, fourth, eleventh and first this year, so that’s pretty consistent and solid.”

    His improvement on the golf course has coincided with his strenuous schedule – Langley is in the nationally renowned College of Business.

    “It’s starting to become really demanding,” Langley said, who scored over a 30 on his ACT and was named to his high school’s highest honor roll four straight years. “Just combining class work and golf has been difficult, but I chose to put myself in this situation and I’m not going to complain because it’s something that I want to do. It’s good for me, and if golf doesn’t work out, I want to have that plan B.”

    Langley’s “plan B” may be better than some people’s first options, but he made it very clear he wants to pursue professional golf. As for his expectations for the end of the top-ranked Illini’s season, the sophomore was extremely hopeful.

    “It’s a long way away,” Langley said. “I’m not gong to pull a Ryan Dempster and call a Cubs World Series win, but if we play the way we’re playing right now at the end of the year, to be honest, we can play with any team in the country. We don’t have any of those flashy players that a lot of big schools have but we have a really competitive team. We’re all really close as far as ability goes, and I think that’s great because we keep improving and pushing each other. That can only lead to good things.”

    Editor’s Note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down on Sunday nights and decides which Illinois athlete is our Illini of the Week. Student-athletes are evaluated by individual performance, contribution to team success and personal achievement.