Chris DeForest eagled sixth in today's third round.
May 16, 2009
Galloway, N.J. - The goal in post-season is to survive and advance. That's exactly what Illinois did this weekend at the NCAA Northeast Regional. The Illini knew they needed to place in the top five to advance to the NCAA Championship and fought through a close battle to place third at the Regional.
"It wasn't the prettiest of weather or the best golf we have played, but we fought through that adversity to make it through," said Illinois head coach Mike Small.
Illinois finished at +35 (887) for the three rounds at the 7,022-yard par 71 Galloway National Golf Club in New Jersey. Alabama won the event +22 followed by Tennessee at +26. At one point today, the next four teams were separated by just four strokes, but Illinois finished atop that logjam in third followed by Virginia (+37) and Wake Forest (+38). Those five teams advance to the NCAA Championship May 26-30 at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio. Colorado State finished sixth at +44 while top-seed and third-ranked Clemson (+56) missed the cut after a ninth-place showing.
The Fighting Illini have proven all season long that depth has been the difference and Saturday's final round was no exception. Sophomore Chris DeForest and junior Matt Hoffman, who struggled the first two days, came up big for Illinois on Saturday.
DeForest eagled the par-five sixth hole en route to an even par 71. He used a three iron from about 230 feet to reach the middle of the green and about five or six feet from the pin, then proceeded to drain the put for a three. DeForest reached the turn at -2 for the day. On Friday, he was at -1 through nine holes, only to shoot +6 on the back nine. Today, DeForest was solid, making seven pars.
"I think much like Big Tens I put too much pressure on myself," DeForest said. "I came in to today knowing I was out of it individually and wanted to do what I could to help the team."
With the scores bunched, Hoffman, meanwhile, got hot on the back nine to give Illinois some separation. The junior birdied three of the first six holes on the back nine en route to a 72.
"It just shows that we have a team that picks each other up," Small said. "Yesterday Barlow and Langley carried us, today it was DeForest and Hoffman."
Langley was Illinois' best finisher individually, tying for seventh at +5 overall. Guthrie's consistency earned him a top 20 finish - a tie for 19th at +11. Barlow was one stroke back in a tie for 24th at +12. Hoffman climbed 12 spots into a tie for 30th at +14 while DeForest moved up 17 spots to a tie for 41st at +17.
Illinois advances to the NCAA Championship for the second straight year, fourth time under head coach Mike Small and 12th time in school history.
"This week we had to get through finals in addition to preparing for this weekend," Small said. "With exams over, we can focus on a good week of practice. We all have things we need to work on, and if we can do that successfully and come in with the right mind set, we can make some noise at the NCAA Championship."