Illini men's golf faces elite competition in Florida

By Christopher Kennedy

The Illini men’s golf team has only left the state of Illinois once this season. Earlier this week, the team put together a dominant showing at Indiana’s Crooked Stick Invitational. This weekend, the Illini will make their first trip of the fall down south to Florida to play in the Tavistock Collegiate Golf Invitational.mh

The invitational markets itself as “the top tournament in college golf,” and the field certainly reflects that. Illinois headlines the completion as the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. It will face off against No. 10 North Carolina, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 16 Vanderbilt, No. 18 Florida and No. 23 South Carolina as well as several other teams in the top-50.

“This is one of the most competitive, outstanding tournaments in college golf,” Central Florida head coach Bryce Wallor said in a press release. “We’re proud to once again bring in an extremely competitive field. This is high-level golf at a gorgeous, championship-level facility.”

The Illini faced several of the nation’s top teams at their Olympia Fields Fighting Illini Invite three weeks ago with a field featuring five teams in the preseason top-10. The Illini took fifth behind Florida State, Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Stanford. This weekend will be another battle for Illinois.

The Illini also entered last year’s Tavistock Invitational as the No. 1 team in the country, but finished fourth behind Florida State, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech, respectively. It was the only tournament that Illinois didn’t win last fall. The team had a strong final round with the second-lowest team score, but the Illini were done in with an overall plus-one in the second. A one-over score was enough to put the Illini in eighth place for the day and they finished 14 strokes behind Florida State.

The Illini’s top player at last year’s tournament was senior Charlie Danielson, who is coming off an individual title at Crooked Stick. Last year, Danielson finished tied for ninth in Florida with New Mexico’s Gavin Green, UNLV’s John Oda and Texas Tech’s Clement Sordet. He was the team’s only starter to hit under par in all three rounds of play, finishing with a minus-eight total. While Danielson led the Illini, first and second place Florida State and Vanderbilt both put three players ahead of him in the final standings. mh

Danielson is the reigning Big Ten Golfer of the Week after his impressive performance Monday and Tuesday at the Crooked Stick Invite. Danielson finished the tournament strong, tying for the lowest round of the competition with a five-under in the final round of play. He will look to carry that momentum into this week’s tournament. Four of the Illini’s five starters return from playing at last year’s Tavistock Invite, and all but one finished in the top 30.

The Tavistock Invite is co-hosted by Central Florida and Texas Tech and alternates being held at the Isleworth Golf & Country Club and Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, both a short drive from UCF’s Orlando campus. Last year’s tournament was played at Lake Nona, but this year it returns to Isleworth.

The last time it was held there in 2013, the Illini finished fifth overall. Danielson competed as an individual, but shone with the best final round score of the tournament.

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