Slow start plagues Illinois men’s golf in 9th-place finish at Isleworth Invitational

As the No. 6 Illinois men’s golf team traveled to Isleworth, Fla. to compete in the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, a slow start put the team in a hole that it was unable to get out of en route to a ninth-place finish.

Illinois finished round one of the three-round tournament in 10th place, shooting an 18-over 306.

After the Illini faltered in the opening round, they were unable to make a late-tournament comeback as they did at both the Windon Classic and the Wolf Run Invitational earlier in the season.

“We got off to a slow start in the first round, and we were playing catch-up all weekend,” head coach Mike Small said.

“We didn’t win. We came to this tournament to win. Our job is to win tournaments and we didn’t get it done. We need to do a better job next time,” Small added.

Throughout the fall season, Illinois has struggled in two main areas: on the green, and in the early rounds of tournaments. The Isleworth classic was no exception to the Illini’s woes.

“We gave away a lot of shots — way too many shots on the green,” Small said.

Sophomore Luke Guthrie, who shot a 10-over for the tournament, said if the team had started better, things would have been much different in the end.

“We struggled in the first round and that was the round that really put us down,” Guthrie said. “The last two rounds, we played better as a team. If we had shot a better first round we would have been in the top three in this event.”

Guthrie said he struggled mainly with his approach shots, which made making up strokes difficult on the course.

“I was able to keep the ball in play, but I never took advantage of the positions I was putting myself in,” Guthrie said. “When you don’t put yourself in a good position on the green on that golf course, it can really do some damage to your game. The greens are really tough.”

Despite the team’s slow start and struggles on the green, Small believed there was one positive to be taken away from the tournament — the play of senior Zach Barlow and junior Chris DeForest in the final two rounds.

“We had two players (Barlow and DeForest) who struggled in the first round and really came back and played a solid tournament the rest of the time. So that’s a testament to those guys. I was proud of that,” Small said.

Barlow shot a 9-over 81 in round one, while DeForest shot a 10-over 82. But the duo managed to come back and finish the tournament strong, as each played the last two rounds at 2-over par.

Junior Scott Langley was the top Illini finisher with an 8-over 224, which was good for a 20th-place tie. He was disappointed in the loss but hopeful the team would rebound next week as it travels to Hawaii for the Turtle Bay Collegiate Invitational.

“I feel like we all didn’t have our best stuff down there,” Langley said. “But that happens sometimes in golf. You just have to come back from it strong. We have one more tournament left in the fall season and we’re really looking forward to that.”

“We just have to come back from it, and we will,” Langley added.