Illini look to continue success of seasons past

The 2011 season was a successful one for the Illini men’s golf team. They won their third Big Ten Championship along with five other tournaments. It’s been three months since the Orange and Blue finished their season at the NCAA’s. Illinois enters the 2011-12 campaign as the No. 13 team in the country. The Illini head to Sugar Grove, Ill., this weekend to compete in the Northern Intercollegiate.

“It’s going to be fun to watch and see how our guys play this upcoming weekend,” head coach Mike Small said. “We finished up real well last year getting to the quarterfinals of the national tournament. However, the No. 13 ranking doesn’t mean anything. It’s all based on last year’s finish. We have new guys stepping in and we need to prove ourselves out on the course this weekend.”

The Northern Intercollegiate will take place at Rich Harvest Farms Golf Course. The course was named one of the top 100 golf courses in America by Golf Digest earlier this year. Sixteen teams will compete, including Big Ten foes Indiana and Purdue.

“It’s going to be the same old, same old,” senior Luke Guthrie said. “We always have good players here, but we have to focus every time we go out and get the ball in the hole. Chipping and putting will be very important as usual.”

The Illini return three players from last year, including Guthrie, redshirt junior Mason Jacobs and sophomore Thomas Pieters.

“The key to our team is our depth,” Small said. “Returning three starters, those four, five and six spots are going to be very important for us. They’ll have to pick up the slack left by the guys that graduated.”

Pieters, who started last year as a freshman, is looking to take on more responsibility this season as a team leader.

“It feels great to be back,” Pieters said. “I’m very comfortable with everything here now and had a good summer so I’m looking to get off to a good start.”

Coming off three consecutive Big Ten titles and a quarterfinals finish, the Illini are determined to make sure this year will be on par with the past few.

“Our goal for this year is to win,” Pieters said. “We did well last year, but I think this season could be even better.”