Illinois disappointed with finish

By Jon Gluskin

The Illinois men’s golf team went into its first tournament of the year with high hopes for a fast start to the season. However, things didn’t work out as the team had hoped.

The Illini finished seventh out of 13 teams at the Inverness Intercollegiate, held in Toledo, Ohio, on Friday and Saturday.

The tournament was held at the challenging par-71 Inverness Club.

“It’s a heck of a way to start out, especially with three freshmen,” senior Garrett Chaussard said.

Kentucky took first place in the tournament with a score of 877 for the 54-hole tournament, while Michigan State came in second (885). Kent State and Georgia Southern tied for third (886). Illinois finished with 900 strokes.

“Obviously, we didn’t have enough low scores,” said Illinois head coach Mike Small. “In order to be good, we need one or two guys every round to shoot a low score. When you have nobody break par, it’s kind of hard to shoot a low team score.”

The Illini’s top golfer was Chaussard, who finished tied for 13th place, with an 8-over par 221. Freshman Frank Alafoginis, in his first career tournament, tied for 21st with 225 strokes. Senior Mike O’Neal finished in a 25th place tie at 226. The other two freshmen who competed, Danny Zimmerman and Andy Mack, rounded out the Illini in ties for 31st (228) and 62nd (240), respectively.

“We didn’t finish obviously where we wanted to,” Chaussard said. “It was a decent start.”

Small said the Inverness Course is the toughest one his team will compete on this season. Only one player in the field of 66 competitors didn’t finish above par – Kentucky’s John Holmes who shot a 213, par for the course.

Two positives for the Illini were the strong individual rounds of Chaussard and Alafoginis. Chaussard shot 71 in the first round, while Alofiginis achieved that score in the third round.

Chaussard felt his freshmen teammates handled their first college tournament well, but knows it will take time for them to fully adjust to the game.

“Everything about the situation is new,” Chaussard said. “You can see (them do) some great things, but just because they don’t have the experience, they’ll do some other things that aren’t quite as good.”

The men’s team plays next Saturday and Sunday in Verona, Wisc., at the Northern Intercollegiate.

Chaussard said the team will shift its focus going into the next tournament. Instead of just focusing on winning, he said his team needs to concentrate on each individual shot.

“We need to stay focused on the present and not worry about the outcome,” Chaussard said. “If we take care of each individual thing, we’ll get the results we want.”

In Verona, the Illini might have a small home-course advantage. Illini Danny Zimmerman is from Verona. Chaussard said the freshman grew up playing on the course.

Small looks to build on the team’s performance from the weekend.

“There were some points to be happy about,” Small said. “But I hope they understand there are things they need to work on so that collectively we can get better.”