Illini men’s golf falls short of expectations at home

The No. 10 Illinois men’s golf team entered this past weekend’s Illini Classic with high expectations, being the host team as well as the top-ranked school in the field. The result, however, was not what the Illini had hoped for. A second-day surge by Akron put the Zips in the top spot by 10 strokes over the second-place Illini.

“We just didn’t play well,” head coach Mike Small said. “We didn’t play to our strengths out there on the course and it showed. It was our worst showing of the year, and it’s disappointing we did it at home in front of our fans.”

The Orange and Blue got off to a good start Saturday placing one stroke behind Akron heading into Sunday’s final round. The Illini’s top shooter in Saturday’s first round was sophomore, Mason Jacobs, who fired an even-par 72. Following closely behind Jacobs for Illinois were senior, Scott Langley and junior, Luke Guthrie, who both shot 2-over.

On Sunday, none of the Illinois golfers shot under par. Langley and freshman Thomas Pieters collectively shot 5-over in their first two holes. The Illini could not recover, which left Akron on top.

“Akron had a couple par shooters on Sunday which is very important in winning a college tournament,” Small said. “Being 1-over for the day really helped them. We really just had to have played better to have a chance to win.”

Jacobs and Guthrie ended up tying as Illinois’ top players, both ending up at 3-over for the tournament and tied for seventh place in the meet. Langley was not far behind, finishing at 4-over.

“(Guthrie and Jacobs) had a good weekend but did not play to their expectations,” Small said. “It was a tough week top to bottom and as a team, we really have to search ourselves within and get better.”

Illinois did, however, have one player shoot better than Jacob and Guthrie’s mark of 3-over. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Hauter finished the weekend at 2-over, but was competing unattached, and was not a part of the starting five for the Illini.

“Jonathan is a good player, and I keep on telling him that,” Small said. “He’s really been working hard this year, and I have a good feeling that he will be an effective player on this team for years to come.”

The Illini now have a week to prepare for the Kepler Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23-24.

“We need to get back to what we do best,” Small said. “This week at practice we’re going to re-establish our goals as well as our identity so we can get back out on the course and play some good golf.”