Sept. 17, 2010
Olympia Fields, Ill. -
Defending national champion Augusta State lived up to its billing in round one of the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational. Paced by a pair of eagles on the day, the Jaguars shot an even par 280 on the 7,205-yard par 70 Olympia Fields North Course and is tied for the lead with eighth-ranked Florida.
No. 16 Illinois began well, fell into the middle of the pack, yet still stands within striking distance of the lead at +7 after shooting 287 as a team.
"It was a decent first round," summarized Illinois head coach Mike Small. "We didn't shoot ourselves out of it. All in all I'm very happy with it."
Senior Chris DeForest had three birdies on the back nine to finish at one-under par 69 for his round, good for a four-way tie for ninth overall. Illinois, meanwhile, is tied for eighth as a team.
"Chris' 69 was very important," Small said. "I'm proud of how he finished because those last holes aren't easy. We weren't the only ones that struggled with it, but in order to win the tournament, we're going to have to play the last few holes on each side very well."
"I hit some good shots at conservative targets and left myself with some lengthy, but manageable birdie putts," DeForest said. "If you make a lot of pars out here and minimize the bogeys, you can normally put up a good score."
Case in point was senior Scott Langley, who shot one-over par 71 with 15 pars, one birdie and two bogeys. Freshman Thomas Pieters had two birdies in his first four holes, but finished at four-over par 74, tied for 41st with junior teammate Luke Guthrie in the 75-man field. Sophomore Mason Jacobs shot 76, rounding out the Illinois scoring.
Overall the field is bunched after the first day with places 3-9 separated by just five shots. Ohio State is just two shots behind co-leaders Augusta State and Florida in third at +2 followed by Alabama (+5), Duke (+6), Indiana (+6) and top-ranked Oklahoma State (+6). The Illini are tied for eighth with No. 2 Stanford (+7) with No. 11 Texas rounding out the top 10 of the 15-team field at +9.
Alabama's Bud Cauley leads the tournament individually after firing a four-under par 66 followed by Ohio State's Bo Hoag and Duke's Yaroslav Merkulov at -3 and a four-way tie for fourth at -2.
"I was proud of our team because even though we didn't have our best stuff from tee to green, we managed to still be in the tournament," Small concluded. "We're only seven out of the lead, but also only four out 13th. We're going to have to come out tomorrow ready to go and keep the ball in play a little more off the tee."