Illinois golf gets set for Big Ten Match Play Championship.

By Drake Pena

The Illinois golf team comes in with high hopes and even higher expectations as it prepares to play in the Big Ten Match Play Championship.  Coming in as the top seed for the seventh consecutive year, it’s safe to say the pressure is on for the Illini. 

“We had a good fall season which is why we’re ranked and seeded so high, but it’s a new season now and that’s how we have to look at it,” said head coach Mike Small.

The Match Play Championship takes place Monday and Sunday at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida. The event will be played on not just one, but two different courses.  The first, where the championship bracket will be played, is the Hammock Beach Resort’s Conservatory Course.

Golf Digest, in its January 2008 issue, ranked The Conservatory third on its elite list of America’s Best New Public Courses.

The second course which will be used for teams who place in the consolation bracket is the Hammock Beach Resort’s Ocean Course. Renowned in its own right, it cracked Golfweeks 2013 top-10 courses in Florida.

Illinois won its first test of the year against ISU in the Tinervin Cup, nearly shutting out the Redbirds. Facing conference opponents this weekend for the first time this season will be a way to gauge where the team is early in the spring.

Since the Illini come in as the top seed, they get a first round bye into the quarterfinals, where they will face the winner of Purdue and Michigan State at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The match play format has been tricky for Illinois in the past, as it has only won the event once.

“That’s just the nature of the beast with match play; any team can win,” Small said. “It is nice to have the first-round bye on Sunday morning, the disadvantage is that the teams we will face will have already experienced the course.”

Each team pairing consists of five matches that each count for one point. Charlie Danielson, Thomas Detry, Brian Campbell, Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer will represent team Illinois in this year’s championship. 

Drake can be reached at [email protected]