No. 1 Illinois men’s golf struggles in second-straight tournament

By Drake Pena

The Illinois men’s golf team failed to make it to the podium for a second-straight tournament — the Illini finished seventh in a competitive field of 13.

“This was not a good tournament for us, but we had a chance to zero in on some issues we need to work on, both physically and mentally,” head coach Mike Small said. “This is still early for us, so I would much rather have these issues exposed in March so that we’re not dealing with them in May or June.”

Illinois’ sixth-place finish at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters was a cloud over the team as they entered the Valspar Collegiate Invitational in Palm City, Fla.

The Valspar Collegiate Invitational took place at the Floridian Golf Club and featured some of the strongest competition Small’s team has seen all year.

The field featured six other top-25 teams, including the No. 2-ranked Florida State Seminoles, who won their last three tournaments.

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Illinois started the tournament in eighth place after day one. Led by junior Thomas Detry’s second-place scores of 67 and 69, the Illini hoped to advance on the leaderboards the next day, but only moved up one spot.

Detry continued his scorching play, shooting his third-straight sub-70 round with a score of 69. Junior Charlie Danielson finished with a combined score of 215 (+2), senior Brian Campbell finished at 222 (+9), freshman Nick Hardy shot 228 (+15), and freshman Spencer Reed shot a 234 (+21). Freshman Dylan Meyer competed individually and finished tied for 35th with a 219 (+6).

Detry was the only Illini golfer to finish in the individual top 20. Danielson was the next-best Illini — he finished tied for 25th place.

Detry left Palm City with his seventh career Big Ten Golfer of the Week honor and his fourth of the season. A native of Brussels, Belgium, Detry beat 20 top-100 players, including six ranked in the top-20, en route to his third-place finish. Detry earned Big Ten Golfer of the week honors for his performance.

“Thomas Detry was the lone bright spot of the week,” Small said, “His third-place finish was really strong considering the depth and talent of the field.”

This consecutive mid-place finish leaves the door open for Florida State to climb to the top of the rankings. To achieve their three consecutive wins, the Seminoles had to compete against many top-10 teams.

With the hopes of keeping their No. 1 ranking in the GCAA Coaches Poll, the Illini will head to Augusta, Georgia for the 3M Augusta Invitational from April 4-5. The field includes No. 3 Texas and No. 17 Oklahoma State among other teams that also received top-25 votes.

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