Illini of the Week Sept. 17: Dylan Meyer

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Illini of the Week Sept. 17: Dylan Meyer

For Dylan Meyer, there’s always room for improvement in his golf game.

Even after Meyer, a freshman on the Illinois men’s golf team, medaled in his first collegiate tournament over the weekend, he was back at practice on Monday, ready to focus on his putting. Meyer shot a 3-over-par 213 in the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational to tie for first place.

That it came against the likes of No. 1-ranked Alabama, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Oklahoma State makes it all the more impressive. 

“I played pretty well all week,” Meyer said. “My ball striking was definitely there. I didn’t putt as well as I wanted to, but I made putts when I needed to. I mean overall, I was pretty happy with the way I played. There’s definitely some things I need to work on and as coach says, ‘You can never be satisfied with what you’re doing and tomorrow nobody really cares what you do.’ It’s time to get back and working.”

Meyer, who shot scores of 72, 70 and 71 in his three rounds, was discouraged by the fact that he couldn’t make as many putts as he wanted to after consistently hitting greens in each round.

So, Meyer returned to practice on Monday wanting to work on his putting. With the depth and talent that the Illini have, though, Meyer will need to continue to improve all aspects of his game if he hopes to continue to qualify for tournaments in the future.

Despite playing well enough to win the invitational over the weekend, Meyer was only a few shots better than teammate David Kim in qualifying for one of the Illini’s spots in the tournament. Meyer edged Kim and took the Illini’s fifth qualifying spot in the invitational, an opportunity he made the most of.

“It was a surreal moment more than anything,” Meyer said. “I didn’t really think my place was there considering I barely qualified to get into the tournament for the team.

“Starting off as the five-man and working my way up to first by the end it was kind of a weight off my shoulders.”

After his weekend performance, in which he recorded six birdies and 40 pars over his three rounds of golf, head coach Mike Small said Meyer should feel more confident in his ability.

“Golf is you taking advantage of your opportunities, and if you don’t, who knows what the future could hold,” Small said. “He barely got in the event for this first event but then he obviously shows he can win, so that’s a big deal. He took advantage of his opportunity and he capitalized and now he’s established himself.

“Don’t take practices off. Don’t take qualifiers off. Don’t take things for granted is what we’ve learned.”

To Meyer, his success on the weekend can be attributed to keeping his game plan simple and focusing on hitting fairways and greens. He also didn’t get ahead of himself on the course.

“I stayed in the moment,” Meyer said. “I didn’t let anything take control of what I was doing. That’s why I had coach (Small) walk with me on 17 and 18 to just keep me grounded and not thinking too far ahead.”

Despite rain, Meyer started the weekend with a solid round on Friday. His play began to pick up in the second round of the invitational.

He had back-to-back birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 on Saturday and added another birdie on 13. After bogeying 14 and 18, Meyer finished his second round with an even-par 70 but felt he had a chance to win the event after two days.

This feeling continued into the final round, as Meyer said he felt he had a chance to win even after double bogeying the No. 9 on Sunday.

“I knew that I was still in contention,” Meyer said. “Watching the scores as the teams were starting to get away from us and we were starting to pull away, I knew that I was still kinda right there and I needed to fire something on the back nine.”

Meyer did just that, as he birdied the 15th hole before parring the final three holes to tie Stanford sophomore Maverick McNealy with the tournament’s low score.

Meyer was supported all weekend by his father, grandfather and his long-time coach Mike Wolf, who were all in attendance. He also found support in Small, who walked the final two holes with Meyer and helped to quell his anxiety.

Small tried to lighten the mood with jokes, but above all else made sure that Meyer stayed focused.

“I tried to keep him in the frame of mind that he had that got him there,” Small said. “You don’t want to do anything differently coming down the stretch than he did the whole round.”

Despite the early individual success, Meyer said he wasn’t as focused on how well he played as much as he was caught up in how the team finished. No. 6 Illinois won the invitational by 11 strokes.

“It’s probably one of the biggest wins that I’ve had in my career in golf,” Meyer said. “I’ve won many tournaments but I’ve never had a team win. It’s really special to me that I actually have a team win and I am a part of something that’s going to be great in the coming year.”

While Meyer will need to continue to improve if he hopes to contribute to the team in the future, junior Charlie Danielson said that Meyer’s game is solid.

“When he’s on, he’s on,” Danielson. “He’s a good ball striker. He hits it really straight. He’s always in the fairway. Hits a lot of greens. Kinda just a solid player.”

For now, Meyer is happy with his season-opening medalist performance but isn’t content with where his golf game is, which is why he was back at practice on Monday ready to improve his game and prepare for the next tournament.

“We’re all poor, hungry and determined,” Meyer said. “So I mean everyone’s going to bring their game, day-in and day-out, and if you’re not going to play well, you’re going to be in the back. You’ve got to bring it every day.”

Nicholas can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @IlliniSportsGuy.