Success in season sees Illini golfers in summer tournament play


Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Tristyn Nowlin golfs at the Women’s Invitational in Medina, Illinois, on Oct. 9, 2019.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

After both men’s and women’s golf teams made it to the NCAA Championships this year, a string of former and current Illini golfers are competing in tournaments over the summer.

Men’s head coach Mike Small is an active player on the PGA Circuit. In 2018, Small competed in seven PGA Tournaments and finished the season ranked No. 67 in the Schwab Cup standings.

Small has been a professional golfer for many years and continues playing while coaching the Illini. He most recently played in the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Course this weekend. He teed off at 10:50 a.m. Friday and finished the first round tied-for-37th. Fellow Illini alum Steve Stricker finished the round tied-for-third.

Small bumped up in Saturday’s second round, finishing tied-for-36th but wrapped up the tournament tied-for-40th. Stricker finished tied-for-second despite being tied-for-first during play Sunday, losing to Jerry Kelly.

The U.S. Open took place at Pebble Beach on June 13-16, and several former Illini who played, including Nick Hardy, Luke Guthrie and Thomas Pieters. However, none of them made the cut. Gary Woodland, a University of Kansas graduate, won the tournament.

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Several former Illinois women’s golfers have continued their careers into the pros as well. Head coach Renee Slone played professional golf post-graduation, competing on the LPGA tour from 1995-1997, and had two stints on the Futures Tour. Slone also finished first in the Big Ten Individual standings twice in her collegiate career at Illinois.

While the women’s program has been historically strong, Illinois has yet to win the Big Ten Tournament. This year the Illini finished second and marked the program’s the first birth into the NCAA finals.

Earlier this spring, junior Tristyn Nowlin competed at Augusta, and seeks to become a professional golfer after her Illinois career concludes.

For the Illini women, their recent success on the course could lead to some familiar faces playing on the LPGA tour in the near future.

Throughout the summer, there will be several former (and current) Illini playing in golf tournaments. In several years, the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour could have a strong Illini presence.

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