Illinois men’s golf finishes off fantastic season

By Drake Pena

The 2014-15 season has been one of many highs for the Illinois men’s golf team. The team showed skill and poise in almost every tournament it played, the Illini have proved that they deserve to be ranked No. 1 in the countrymp.

Head coach Mike Small believes his team admirably handled its high expectationsmp.

“(It’s) the first time a northern program has ever been voted No. 1 by the coaches,” Small said. “When you bring three All-Americans back, they are dealing with expectations. Then you add two talented freshmen; there is some stress involved. It’s been a fun yet high-maintenance year.”

The Illini also swept the individual conference honors this season. Small was named Big Ten Men’s Golf Coach of the Year. The honor marks the seventh in Small’s career. He was joined by freshman Nick Hardy and junior Thomas Detry, who were named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year, respectivelymp.

Detry’s individual conference honor marks the fourth-straight year that an Illini has been named Big Ten Player of the Year. It is the eighth time that Illinois has received the award.

“It’s a representation of a yearlong standard of good play,” Small said. “It’s a very good compliment to Thomas and the way he’s performed this season.”

The accolades didn’t stop there. Senior Brian Campbell joined junior Charlie Danielson, Hardy and Detry to comprise the All-Big Ten first team made up six golfers. Campbell and Detry were named to the Second Team in 2013. Freshman Dylan Meyer also brought back honors. He was named to the Second Team All-Big Ten. Meyer placed among the top-10 individuals in three tournaments this seasonmp.

Small believes he has a talented group of young men and that once they get going, they can’t be stopped.

“We have really good players. In golf, it really comes and goes, and when you get hot you have to take advantage of that,” Small said. “When we get out there and play our best we can really rock and roll. “

The team hopes that its momentum carries over into the Illini’s most important tournament of the year thus far: the NCAA Regionals.

The Illini’s No.1 seed at the Sagamore NCAA Regional marks the eighth-consecutive season that Illinois has qualified for the NCAA tournament. The seed marks the highest in program history in the current regional format.

Hosted by Ball State, 13 teams join the Illini at the Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Indiana, competing in a 54-hole stroke play tournament May 14-16.

With only the top-five teams and top individuals not on those teams qualifying for the NCAA Championship, Illinois will look to play its best golf of the season and prove that all the previous awards were justified.

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Tweet: Year in Review: @IlliniMGolf shooting for national championship.