Illini men's golf resumes fall season at Crooked Stick

By Christopher Kennedy

While the team hasn’t played in any tournaments since the Fighting Illini Invite on Sept. 20, there’s still been plenty of competition within the team.

In advance of this week’s tournament, the Illini played an intra-squad three-round qualifier. Illinois has five strong starters solidly in place, and senior Thomas Detry dominated the qualifier with an 8-stroke victory.

“He knows he’s going to play the next event… but he’s understood the mindset, the philosophy and the heart that I’m going to go out, I’m going to play and I’m going to win this thing anyway,” head coach Mike Small said. “It’s very easy for those guys like that in golf to maybe take a couple days off and just coast through it. He got on it and more or less buried the guys.”

Detry will look to carry that edge to Crooked Stick after a strong start to the fall. He finished third at the season-opening Northern Intercollegiate and was the team’s top finisher at Olympia Fields, at which he tied a course record in the first round. He’s currently the No. 8 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

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Illinois has won Indiana’s Wolf Run Invitational the last three years in the row. It looks to continue that winning streak in a new venue at Crooked Stick. The tournament marks the second part of the Illini’s fall slate. After a dominating win at the Northern Intercollegiate and mixing it up with elite competition at the Fighting Illini Invite, a break in the schedule allows the team to assess themselves.

“(We) circle the wagons, see what we need to do individually and as a team to try to get better,” Small said. “We need to take care of our own individual issues. Each one of them has to put in so much time individually, and they have to come to terms with themselves emotionally, mentally, and physically.”

The Illini’s starting five in Carmel is Detry, sophomores Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer and seniors Alex Burge and Charlie Danielson. Danielson didn’t play in the Fighting Illini Invite due to a back injury, which opened the door for freshman Edoardo Liparelli’s debut with the team, a 59th place 3-over finish.

While Small said he was impressed by the way that Liparelli was able to step in for Danielson and perform in windy conditions, he said the team’s two freshmen have a long way to go before breaking into the lineup.

The Illini are currently ranked No. 1 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. They’ll face off with No. 6 Duke, which looks to be a resurgent program this year, as well as several teams from around the Midwest. But at this point in the season, Small said it’s more about playing against the golf course.

“We ratcheted up the golf courses this fall to really test out game,” Small said. “You gauge yourself against the teams and how you do, that’s the end result, the NCAA’s. But I like to gauge ourselves this time of year how we play tough golf courses. Every course we’ve played this fall is very difficult.”

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