Illini set to compete with ‘best teams’

Illini+set+to+compete+with+%27best+teams%27

By Christian Jones, Staff Writer

Nearly a year since their last official outing, the Illini men’s golf team will start their spring season this Saturday at the Tinervin Cup.

Following the abrupt end to their 2020 spring season, the Illinois men’s golf team looked forward to competing in the fall. Soon they found out the fall season would be canceled altogether.

Come Saturday, a total of 350 days will have passed since the Illini competed at the John Burns Intercollegiate last February.

“It’s just exciting, there’s a lot of excitement that built up,” said senior Michael Feagles. “It seems like it’s been growing and growing since March.”

Along with Feagles, fellow senior Giovanni Tadiotto and sophomore Jerry Ji were named Big Ten preseason honorees. The selections came as no surprise following the success the Illini had in individual events this fall.

Feagles won the HNS Amateur Open and tied for seventh at the Golfweek Purdue Amateur. Ji finished in the top-five four times, including second place in the Sunshine State Amateur, while Tadiotto recorded three top-10 finishes of his own.

Both Feagles and Tadiotto opted into the extra season of eligibility offered to spring sport seniors after the pandemic caused cancellations. The result could be a storybook ending to their college careers.

Up to this point, Tadiotto has not won a tournament since his freshman season. However, he ended the shortened season with two straight top-five finishes and continued to have success in the fall.

Tadiotto said he continued to practice throughout winter break while visiting family back home in Belgium.

“I think every part of my game overall improved,” Tadiotto said. “I think there’s still some place that I need a little improvement, but I did a lot of work on my short game over the break, and then also with the approach shots.”

Feagles, who led the team with a 71.56 stroke average in 2020, has his eyes set on the national championship. This year the championship will be held at Grey Hawk Golfclub in Scottsdale, Arizona, Feagles’ hometown.

“To be able to go home for national championship and play a course that I’ve already been to, probably a couple hundred times,” Feagles said, “That would be probably my favorite trip, my favorite golf course and, obviously, the best last college event I could ask for.”

Like Tadiotto, Ji returned to northern Europe during winter break. Despite the cold weather in Holland, Ji says he was able to practice every day.

“I’m very excited about this coming spring,” Ji said. “We have a great team, and there’s a lot of good things that can happen if we are in a good mindset and we compete hard.”

When asked what teams he is looking forward to competing against, Ji gave a simple answer.

“The best teams.”

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