Illinois men’s golf sees steady improvements, finishes eighth in Las Vegas 

Senior+Tommy+Kuhl+swings+his+club+during+the+NCAA+Championship+on+June+1.+Kuhl+finished+the+round+shooting+three-under+during+the+Southern+Highlands+Collegiate.+

Photo courtesy of NCAA Photos/Getty Images/Illini Athletics

Senior Tommy Kuhl swings his club during the NCAA Championship on June 1. Kuhl finished the round shooting three-under during the Southern Highlands Collegiate.

By Carson Gourdie, Staff Writer

Being one of only two midwest programs, the Illini struggled in the first two days. However, a strong final outing resulted in an eighth-place finish out of 15 programs for the reigning Big Ten champions in the Southern Highlands Collegiate outing in Las Vegas.  

“We settled down and played some solid golf (on the last day),” head coach Mike Small said, via a press release. “It was nice to get to a respectable finish after a rough start to the tournament. I’m proud of the guys for competing until the end and playing Illini golf today.”

Hosted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the tournament featured some of the nation’s most elite programs — Oklahoma, Pepperdine and Texas  with Northwestern being the only northern school to accompany Small’s program. However, after back-to-back top-three finishes in the past two tournaments, the Illini struggled to compete against top-tier programs. 

In the first day of the event, the Illini were tied for 13th  alongside in-state rival Northwestern  as they finished with a team-combined 291 strokes. With the team sitting at three strokes over par, Illinois was led by senior Adrien Dumont de Chassart, who shot three-under-par. 

“It was disappointing to see the way that we played the back nine today,” Small said, via a press release. “We were seven-under par at the turn and in good position, then on the back nine the wheels fell off and we limped in, and that’s not acceptable. I know it’s early in the season, but we should play within ourselves and under control better than that.”

After getting used to the course, the Illini improved, finishing the second day with a team-combined 283 strokes, an eight-stroke improvement. While no one topped the score Dumont de Chassart achieved on the first day, it was matched. Senior Tommy Kuhl finished the round shooting three-under, while junior Jerry Ji was just a shot behind his Illini counterpart. 

Despite the improvement, though, they didn’t improve much in the standings, placing 12th in the second round. The Wildcats finished a shot ahead of the Illini. 

“We’re not clicking on all cylinders at the moment, but to be more competitive today was a step in the right direction,” Small said.

On the final day, the Illini gave their best performance of the tournament, which showed in the standings. Led by a career-best performance from Kuhl, who finished 7-under, the Illini finished with a team-combined score of 8-under at 280 strokes, which helped them move up four spots in the standings and finish eighth overall in the tournament. 

Dumont de Chassart also had a bounce back day after a weaker second day performance, as he finished the third day shooting 4-under while Ji’s step back still resulted in finishing 1-under-par. 

Finishing eighth overall in the invite, the Illini finished 10-under-par as a team and placed ahead of Northwestern by four spots. Oklahoma finished in first place every day and won the invite, staying ahead of second place-finisher Pepperdine.

The Illini have a couple of weeks off until they travel to Tucson, Arizona, on March 18 to play in the National Invitational Tournament, hosted by the University of Arizona.

 

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