Historic Illini golf season comes to an end
NCAA DAY 3 PHOTO GALLERY
May 28, 2009
Toledo, Ohio - The greatest Illinois golf season in recent memory came to a close Thursday at the NCAA Championship in Toledo, Ohio. The season saw Illinois win seven tournaments as a team, four individually, rank no. 1 at one point in the computer rankings, win its first Big Ten title in 21 years and advance to the NCAA finals for the second straight season.
"You look back on the progress we have made over the past two or three years and the respect we've gained throughout the country, it's pretty strong," said head coach Mike Small in reflection.
Sophomore Scott Langley shot a final round one-over par 72 to finish in a tie for 18th individually at +2 and is expected to be named an All-American at the end of the weekend. Langley had birdies on holes one and three to start his round and made 12 pars the rest of the way.
As a team, however, the Illini never could get things rolling the way they have the entire season. Illinois shot 302 (+18) as a team in the third round and at +40 will finish either 20th or 21st nationally, depending on how Stanford completes its round Friday morning. Play was suspended because of darkness with six teams remaining on the course.
"It got going sideways and just kept going," Small said. "We didn't have a lot of stopping power. We didn't hit enough fairways and didn't putt really well. It was a struggle all week and it got the better of us in the end."
For the record, DeForest and freshman Luke Guthrie each shot 76 (+5) in the final round while juniors Hoffman and Zach Barlow finished with 78s (+6). The final individual places will be finalized when stroke play is complete Friday morning.
North Carolina State's Matt Hill claimed the individual national title, finishing the 54 holes at -6. Hill becomes the first player to qualify as an individual to win the national championship since 2004.
For the first time, the new Match Play format will be played out over the next couple of days to determine the team champion. The top eight teams from three days of stroke play advance. Friday morning's quarterfinal parings feature no. 1 seed Oklahoma State, who wrapped up stroke play at -3 vs. no. 8 Georgia (+17), no. 4 seed Arkansas (+13) vs. no. 5 Washington (+13), no. 2 Arizona State (+10) vs. no. 7 Texas A&M (+17) and no. 3 USC (+13) vs. no. 6 Michigan (+16)
"Everybody on this team improved from last year to this year," Small said of his team individually. "The joy of golf is you start a season fresh. We all have things to work on over the summer. Hopefully we can make the same progress next season."