Top-ranked Illinois men's golf suffers first loss of Spring

By Drake Pena

In arguably its most competitive event of the season, the Illinois men’s golf team couldn’t capture the top spot for the first time in its last three tournaments. 

The Southern Highland Collegiate Masters ended with Illinois in sixth behind UCLA, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and champion Texas. The Longhorns ended at -26, 20 strokes ahead of the No. 1 ranked Illini.

In a field featuring 10 of the nation’s top 25 teams — all 15 competing teams sit in the nation’s top 50 — the tournament represented the Illini’s toughest test thus far this season.

Illinois executed against inferior opponents all season long. It defeated in-state rival Illinois State in the Tinervin Cup and won the Big Ten Match Play Championship and the Louisiana Classics, neither of which featured any top-50 teams.

After the first day of the Collegiate Masters, Illinois was sitting within striking distance of first, finishing the afternoon in fourth place. Senior Brian Campbell led the way, shooting a 68 (-4) to put him in a three-way tie for first place. Two other teammates helped the cause, with juniors Charlie Danielson and Thomas Detry each finishing with score of 71 (-1) to tie for 16th place on the individual leaderboard.

The second day was a little more of a struggle for the starting five. Shooting a 289 (+1), Illinois ended the day in the middle of the pack, tied for sixth place overall with Texas Tech with a combined score of 572 (-4). Oklahoma, California and USC were all within a three strokes of Illinois, but Oklahoma State (-18) and eventual winner Texas (-16) separated themselves after the second day.

Not a single Illini golfer finished the day shooting under 70 — Brian Campbell and Charlie Danielson both shot a 71 (-1)

The tournament ended with Illinois still in sixth place, after a team score of 286 on the third day. 

There were bright spots however, as Charlie Danielson finished sixth overall on the individual leaderboard, shooting a combined (-6) throughout his three days in the Las Vegas tournament.

Losing to No. 4 Texas and No. 6 Arizona State could shake up national rankings, putting the Illini, for the first time all spring, in serious jeopardy of losing their No. 1 overall ranking.

In the end, it’s not how you start, but about how you finish and the Illini will have the upcoming Valspar Collegiate Invitational, in Palm City, Florida, to prove they are still number one.