Men’s golf takes 4th at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate

The No. 23 Illinois men’s golf team finished fourth at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate in Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday. The 15-team tournament, par 72, which kicked off Monday and lasted three rounds, was the Illini’s first stroke-play event of 2012.

Illinois lost to three lower-ranked teams in No. 44 Middle Tennessee State, No. 45 Wake Forest and No. 46 Memphis. Middle Tennessee State defeated Illinois by 12 strokes and finished at 6-under-par, while Memphis and Wake Forest played second and third respectively.

“We didn’t reach our goal of winning the tournament, but there were some bright spots,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said.

One of the bright spots for Illinois was the play of sophomore Thomas Pieters, who tied for fifth overall with a 2-under. Pieters, who is ranked No. 19 in the nation, ended Monday tied for 11th at even-par but used a 2-under to improve six spots Tuesday. Senior Luke Guthrie, ranked No. 8 nationally, finished tied for seventh overall with a 1-under behind consistent rounds of 72, 71 and 72.

The tournament provided an opportunity for Illinois to see where it stands heading into the rest of the stroke-play portion of the season.

“We now know what we need to work on,” said junior Mason Jacobs, who tied for 15th with a 1-over. “We need to focus on our short game and putting, but we are feeling pretty good right now.”

The Illini entered Tuesday in fifth place after shooting a 2-over Monday. The Illini were able to move up one spot after shooting an even-par Tuesday to finish the tournament 2-over. This was Illinois’ first time participating in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate.

“Everyone could have taken a few strokes off of their scores by improving on chips and putts and playing more efficiently,” Guthrie said.

Freshman Brian Campbell and sophomore Jonathan Hauter also competed for the Orange and Blue. Campbell shot an even-par second round and finished tied for 34th with a 6-over. Hauter started the tournament with two triple bogeys and a double bogey in his first nine holes, but finished strong, shooting a 3-over on the next 45 holes. Hauter ended at 9-over and tied for 50th overall.

Illinois has two weeks off before it heads to Lafayette, La., for the Louisiana Classics Invitational on March 5 and 6. Last year, the Illini won the tournament by six strokes.

“We can use this meet to build momentum for the rest of the season including Big Tens, (NCAA) regionals and (NCAA) nationals,” Guthrie said. “There are a lot of positives to build upon, and we hope to go down to Louisiana and win the meet.”