Chaussard’s top-five performance leads Illini to sixth-place finish

By Jon Gluskin

The Illinois men’s golf team escaped from the gloomy Champaign weather for a couple of days. They competed in the Alister MacKenzie Invitational on Monday and Tuesday, in Fairfax, Calif., at The Meadow Club.

Senior Garrett Chaussard finished as the top scorer for the Illini for the fourth consecutive tournament. He shot a 2-under 211, which put him in a tie for fifth place. His score helped the Illini finish in sixth place in the 15-team pool.

Oregon State won the title, with a score of 848. Purdue took second with an 855, and host California finished third (856). Illinois had a team score of 863.

The Illini had scores of 289 and 292 in the first two rounds. They had a score of 282 in the third and final round, which was the lowest team score of the fall season.

“I think we were more focused that last round,” head coach Mike Small said. “We were ready to play.”

Chaussard said the team did a good job of learning the first two rounds and applying their experiences during the last round.

Chaussard said a change in energy helped his team finish strong.

“We saw that the level of intensity we had on the last day was really good and the results showed,” Chaussard said. “That’s what we’re striving to do every time.”

Chaussard finished 2-under in the final round. Junior Blair Harkins shot par, and freshman Danny Zimmerman shot 4-under.

Harkins finished the tournament with a 3-over 216, which put him in a tie for 14th place. Zimmerman tied for 19th at 217. Senior Mike O’Neal tied for 33rd with a 221, and freshman Andy Mack rounded out the Illini scoring in 73rd (234).

For Chaussard, this tournament marked his third top-10 finish out of four chances.

“It’s not one of the hardest golf courses we play all year,” Chaussard said. “(But) anytime you finish especially in the top five, it means you played pretty well.”

Chaussard said his team handled the west coast style of golf well. He said courses out west, especially the greens, play different than the courses the team is most accustomed to.

“We didn’t play pretty well the first day, but we learned and played better the second day,” Chaussard said. “I think the biggest thing overall is we did a good job of adapting. It’s completely different than any other course we’ll play. We adjusted well to that change in conditions because it’s not something we see very often.”

The Big Ten made a strong showing at the tournament. All three teams competing – Purdue (2nd), Northwestern (4th) and Illinois (6th) – finished in the top half of the field.

The Illini will conclude their fall season Oct. 25-26 at the Big Ten vs. Pac-10 Challenge in Bend, Ore.

“We did some good things,” Small said. “We’re moving in the right direction. I think the guys are getting better. They’re working hard and getting more comfortable.”