Hardy excels, Illini struggle In opening competition

By Gavin Good, Staff writer

Junior Nick Hardy had a career day during his first round at Oakbourne Country Club in Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting a 66 on the Par-72 course.

The performance earned Hardy Co-Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors, along with Michigan’s Kyle Mueller Jr.

The award was Hardy’s second this year — he won the award solo Sept. 14 — and the third for an Illini golfer this season. Freshman Giovanni Tadiotto won the honor after winning the Northern Intercollegiate in the fall.

Hardy’s first round was not enough for the Illini, however, as they struggled to assert themselves over the competition and ended up finishing fourth out of 15 teams. The Illini attempted taking home their fifth-consecutive Louisiana Classics title and win the fifth of their last six tournaments dating back to the fall.

“We had flashes of good play, but for the most part, it wasn’t one of our best efforts,” head coach Mike Small said.

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Illinois lagged behind front-runners No. 23 Kent State — who ran away with a 19-stroke margin of victory — No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 5 LSU, and never established the consistency to make up enough ground to catch its fellow ranked opponents. Small said the team’s level of focus was not where it needed to be.

“I think we stayed a little bit too much in the past for shots,” Small said. “We didn’t play golf in the moment. We were thinking about what we just did: whether it was good or bad, which was kind of out of sorts, out of good habits and good routines. We’ll figure that out.”

Behind Hardy’s effort, junior Dylan Meyer tied for 10th at one-over, freshman Michael Feagles tied for t21st at 7-over par and sophomore Edoardo Lipparelli tied for 24th at eight-over par. Tadiotto and fellow-freshman Bryan Baumgarten followed up in a tie for 35th at 10-over and 51st at 14-over, respectively, with Tadiotto competing as an individual.

Small summed up the tournament for the Illini, stressing that the spring season is still in its early stages and reiterating his confidence in his team’s ability to bounce back in time to vie for the title at the upcoming Southern Highlands Collegiate. The Las Vegas-contested tournament perennially boasts one of college golf’s toughest fields and does so again, with 10 top-25 teams slated to participate.

“Some weeks you have it, some weeks you don’t,” Small said. “We didn’t have the presence and the purpose we usually have I thought, from a look standpoint, from a purpose standpoint. It’s early in the year; we’ll figure this thing out and get better.”

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