Illini men's golf capture Big Ten Match Play Championship

Illini+men%26%23039%3Bs+golf+capture+Big+Ten+Match+Play+Championship

By Drake Pena

The No. 1-seeded Illinois men’s golf team went wire-to-wire as the conference’s top team, winning the Big Ten Match Play Championship for the second time in three years. 

This season, its seventh in a row as the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Illinois began with a 3-2 victory Sunday over No. 8-seeded Purdue. Freshman Dylan Meyer started off the scoring, and after one Purdue point, junior Thomas Detry and senior Brian Campbell followed with victories of their own. 

“The first match is always important and to get a point sends a positive message to the rest of the team,” head coach Mike Small said. 

With one victory already in hand, the Illini moved on to face Maryland on Monday morning. 

Neither the Hammock Beach Resort’s par-72 Conservatory Course, nor the No. 4-seeded Terps were a match for Illinois. Detry, Campbell and freshman Nick Hardy won three straight matches for the Illini, who finished with a 3-2 victory over Maryland. 

The win against Maryland set the Illini up to face No. 7-seeded Michigan in the championship round. Led by Detry, who picked up a point in every game he played, Illinois pulled away with a 3-2 victory. 

It all came down to the 18th hole, where Meyer sealed the deal, keeping his one hole lead over Andrew Yeager to give Illinois the match play championship.

Small said he was proud of his team for its resiliancy against what he called an underrated field.

“It was really a total team effort,” Small said. “Great to see some of the guys who struggled early in the week to really help us in the end. The Big Ten is a good golf conference. Just because (the teams) might not have played so well in the fall, doesn’t mean that they can’t now.”

The Illini are the only team in the Big Ten ranked in the top 25. 

Charlie Danielson, the 2014 Les Bolstad Award winner for the Big Ten golfer with the lowest season stroke average, was the only Illini to fail to get a point in any of the matches. Danielson lost each of his three matches by scores of 4 & 3, 2 & 1, and 1 up, respectively. 

The Illini now turn to the Louisiana Classics, hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette, which begins March 2. This season will be the 30th edition of the event. 

“We still have a lot of work to do.” Small said. “We had some good spots this week, but there are lots of things we need to work on if we want to win championships.”

Drake can be reached at [email protected]