Hardy takes little time to prove he is one of NCAA’s best golfers

Nick+Hardy+as+the+Illini+of+the+Week.

Wenyuan Chen

Nick Hardy as the Illini of the Week.

By Lucas Wright , staff writer

Illinois men’s golfer Nick Hardy didn’t spend his summer interning, and he surely did not spend it on the beach.

Hardy was getting in as much golf as he could handle over the three-month summer break before returning for his junior year.

In his first appearance for Illinois this season, Hardy finished with a first-place finish at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate. Hardy carded a 4-under par in the tournament to take the title by one shot over teammate Dylan Meyer.

Some morning rain caused the first round to be delayed into Saturday afternoon, but the postponement did not throw Hardy off his game.

“There’s no extra pressure there; you can’t really think about that,” Hardy said. “If there’s 36 holes, you’ve got to go out there and do the best you can. Hopefully what you have survives, and we did that as a team pretty well. We came out the second round – the last round – and played well.”

This past weekend was business as usual for Hardy in his third collegiate season, after playing in the U.S. Open over the summer.

This year’s Open was Hardy’s second-career appearance, and this time he played alongside a former Illini.

“It was definitely very special, not only to qualify for the second time but for Charlie (Danielson) to qualify too and both of us go over there, and spending the whole week together was so much fun,” Hardy said. “I want to play against the best of the best, and being able to do that in that atmosphere, there’s nothing better than that.”

Hardy played his way into the U.S. Open by qualifying in the Springfield Sectional at Springfield Country Club in Ohio. He shot a 6-under to finish one shot ahead of the field, while Danielson followed in the fourth and final spot by shooting 1-under on the two-round qualifier.

Illinois men’s golf head coach Mike Small said Hardy’s experience cannot be overlooked, despite not qualifying to play over the weekend at the U.S. Open.

“It shows what his true talent is, and that shows what their potential is,” Small said. “Playing in one of the top four events in the world for both professionals and amateurs just shows what he can do,” Small said. “If he puts this in the back of his mind and uses it as experience down the road, it’s going to help him.”

Off the course at Oakmont, Hardy brushed shoulders with some of the most elite players in the game, which he said helped reassure him in where he is in his career.

“Just being around them, they’re all great guys,” Hardy said.  They all had the same dreams and goals that I have of hopefully one day being there and staying there.”

For now, Hardy is back to the daily grind of competing at the collegiate level.

During his first two seasons with the Illini, Hardy held his scoring average below 73 and finished on an All-Big Ten team each year. He is also fresh off winning the Illinois State Amateur Championship, where he shot a record 28-under on the four-day event.

While it is not the PGA Tour, Hardy says he will have no trouble getting himself motivated to play for the Illini.

“You’ve got to make those adjustments. It’s going from the best of the best to back down to your college teammates, and it’s definitely a different playing field,” Hardy said. “But it is golf. You’re still playing the same game, and you just have to regroup after every tournament and take what you can learn from it.”

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