Illinois men’s golf finishes fall with East Lake Cup victory

By Gavin Good, Contributing writer

Before receiving its 2016 Big Ten Championship rings during Illinois football’s victory over Michigan State, Illinois men’s golf wrapped up its fall season with another title on Nov. 2.

They won the East Lake Cup in Atlanta, defeating defending NCAA champions Oregon 3-2 in the final of match play.

Junior Nick Hardy defeated Edwin Yi, Edoardo Lipparelli took care of Nigel Lett while freshman Bryan Baumgarten clinched the title with a comeback win over Sulman Raza.

Oregon’s two points came via a Ryan Gronlund win over freshman Michael Feagles and from Wyndham Clark defeating Dylan Meyer 1-up. On the way to their encounter with Oregon, the Illini knocked off powerhouse Texas in the semifinals by a 3-2 count in match play.

Head coach Mike Small was impressed with his team and with the fall season, but stressed the room for improvement.

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“The fall shows that we have potential,” Small said. “We’re good when we’re good, we’re not very good when we’re not. We need to play better golf when we’re not at our best. That is the secret of all levels of golf, on tour or amateur golf.”

Juniors Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy, who are ranked No. 10 and No. 34, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, have been key leaders for the Illini so far, according to Small.

“We are getting more and more leadership all the time; I think they are learning that role,” Small said. “They never had to do that with our veterans that have been ahead of them the past few years.”

Meyer is already focusing on preparing for more success when the spring season comes around, and he and the team will work on a lot of the technical aspects of his game during the winter.

“We just start getting really technical; we start working on things you don’t typically work on,” Meyer said. “Being technical in season is not very good; it gets you thinking too much. During the winter time, we don’t go out and play in tournaments, so we are able to work on these small things we need to work on in our swings, our short game, and we can always work on mental attitude.”

For Small, there is always something his teams can improve on, and this winter will be no different.

“Just because you are winning a college event or winning something here doesn’t mean you have reached your pinnacle,” Small said. “This is a never-ending quest for success and perfection. It’s very hard, so you just have to keep going and going, just to keep that drive and show that this fall was full of positives and success, but there are still things we need to work on.”

Small has his goals set high for the Illini and has the intention of doing whatever it takes to help his team enter the spring as better golfers than when they ended in the fall.

“Are we good enough to win on the PGA tour now?” Small said. “Are we good enough to win a major? If not, then we need to work harder.”

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