Men’s golf concludes magical season with disappointing finish



By Rich Mayor

The Illinois men’s golf team’s magical season hit a divot in its final tournament of the fall this week, as it wasn’t able to pull another rabbit out of its orange hat.

The No. 1 Illini rolled into the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational in Windemere, Fla., as a white-hot team to be reckoned with. They’d won three consecutive tournaments, including their most recent, the D.A. Weibring Invitational, by 18 strokes. But the elite field this week cooled the team off. Illinois finished the tournament tied for 11th of 18 at 42-over-par – by far its worst showing of the season.

“I’m not discouraged, but I’m not encouraged,” head coach Mike Small said. “I mean it is what it was. It was a good fall and it’s not going to detract from the good fall that we had, but we know we need to compete better than this come springtime.”

The powerhouse Isleworth field included eight of the top nine teams in the country, including Oklahoma State, USC and defending champion Georgia. The Bulldogs successfully defended their title this week, finishing first again by a whopping 17 strokes after going 3-over-par.

The Illini were paced by Scott Langley’s steady hand, as the sophomore fired a 72-72-75 to finish at 3-over-par and tied for 12th. The drop-off after Langley was significant, however. Junior Matt Hoffman finished tied for 26th at 9-over-par, and sophomore Chris DeForest tied for 35th at 11-over.

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    Juniors Zach Barlow and Clayton Parkhill, who finished tied for 75th and tied for 86th, respectively, rounded out the lineup.

    “We didn’t get a lot of productivity from our fifth spot, our four and five scores were higher this week than they’ve been all year,” Small said. “Scott showed up and carried the team pretty well, but we had to count some higher scores than we normally have to.”

    Illinois began the tournament slowly Sunday, shooting a 13-over-par 301 to finish the first round tied for 14th. The team got back on track in the second round, going 6-over-par to climb to 11th and within striking distance of the top five. But the wheels fell off in the Illini’s final round of the fall season, as the team shot a 23-over-par 311 on Tuesday, far below how they fared previously this year.

    “We didn’t hit as many wayward shots (in the second round), and the consistency around the greens was not what we wanted,” Small said.

    The Isleworth concluded a tremendous fall season for the Illini, one in which they won three consecutive tournaments for the first time in 20 years, were ranked No. 1 in the Golfstat rankings for two straight weeks and saw two of their members medal.

    Barlow tied for first in Illinois’ first win of the season, the Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields Invitational, and Langley won the Weibring.

    The Illini will be on hiatus until they begin Big Ten match play on Feb. 13. And after the final tournament, the team now knows what weaknesses to address.

    “I’m not disappointed, it’s just one tournament of 12,” Small said of the team’s play this week. “There are issues that we all need to work on, and this just highlighted a few of them. Now we need to assess our games individually and take it from there.”