Illinois men’s golf compete in Augusta

By Ryan Wilson

[email protected], down one spot in the national rankings, play in yet another challenging tournament

The Illinois men’s golf team did not pick an easy schedule this year. The Illini have finished fifth and tied for eighth — their worst in respect to the standings — in each of their last two tournaments.

The string of tough tournaments continues this week in Augusta Georgia at the 3M Augusta Invitational. Seven of the 14 other teams competing at the Invitational are in Golfweek’s top 45 schools, including No. 1 Texas and No. 3 Georgia. Texas replaced the Illini at the top of the standings last week.

“This is a fun tournament with some of the top teams competing in it,” head coach Mike Small said. “I would like to go down there and compete and keep making progress toward our goal of playing well heading into the Big Ten Championships.”

Illinois will play at the 6,248-yard, par-72 Forest Hills Golf Club. Augusta Magazine has voted the 90-year-old course, which has hosted events with Phil McKelson and Davis Love III, as the best public course in Augusta several times.

“The course takes some local knowledge, so our guys will have to use their experience there,” Small said. “You have to position yourself well around the golf course. The greens are grainy and tricky. We’ll need to need to play from strengths and confidence, but with a lot of discipline.”

The Illini finished strong at last year’s Invitational. They were tied for the lead with New Mexico and Georgia heading into the back nine, but didn’t  take home first. The Champaign team took home second, one stroke head of Georgia and three ahead of Texas.

Brian Campbell, a senior at the time, led Illinois with an 11-under. Thomas Detry and Charlie Danielson will prepare to lead the team this year after Campbell’s graduation. Detry, who had two rounds of 68 last year, tied for 11th, while Danielson was the only other Illini to finish in the top 15.

“It was disappointing we finished second — hats off to (winners) New Mexico — but I think our guys played consistent golf and improved at this tournament,” Small said last year.

They will tee off at 8 a.m. today with a shotgun start for 36 holes. The final round will start at 7:30 a.m. Sunday with the remaining 18 holes

“There are a lot of different things I’m going to be looking forward to this weekend,” Small said. “Come next Monday, I’m going to have a much better idea of where we stand heading into the last few weeks of the season.”

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