Illini fly south for ‘the real deal’


Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Senior Brendan O’Reilly watches as his ball sails through the air during competition. The men’s golf team will compete in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate at Magnolia Grove Golf Club this weekend.

By Christian Jones, Staff Writer

As snowfall continues to make life in Champaign a bit harder every day, the Illini fly south to Mobile, Alabama, where they will compete in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate at Magnolia Grove Golf Club.

The three-day tournament begins this Sunday and ends on Tuesday.

It comes after the Illini escaped the harsh winter last week, opting instead for a day in Florida at the Tinervin Cup. The Illini left Florida with a victory and momentum heading into the first tournament of the year.

“We had some good performances. Some guys played well,” said head coach Mike Small. “Last week was kind of an icebreaker to get back in the flow. This will be an important weekend.”

Senior Brendan O’Reilly was one of the guys who had success in Florida, finishing with a 2-0 lead in the Ryder Cup-style matchup.

“I made a point of emphasis on putting, and I think putted well,” O’Reilly said. “I think whenever you putt well, it always glues some rounds together.”

The Mobile Bay Intercollegiate marks a return to the college golf format for the Illini. Unlike the Ryder Cup format, which consists of several individual matchups and one point awarded per round, the NCAA format includes 72 holes of stroke play followed by a seeded match-play tournament.

“It’s been almost a year since we played a legitimate college tournament, so everyone’s pumped,” O’Reilly said. “Everyone’s ready to go down and play. Just excitement just ready to compete.”

Small said this tournament requires a drastically different strategy than last week’s competition and the solo events the team has been playing the last few months.

“This is totally different. This replicates college golf right here,” Small said. “This is a big 13-team tournament. This is the real deal.”

Small also added he is unsure how the pandemic has affected the team’s development.

“We haven’t really been in a team atmosphere where we gotta count four out of five, and we gotta show up and play hard for three days,” Small said. “Last last week was a one-day deal, so we’ll know a lot more after this weekend.”


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