The Illini have won 10 tournaments as a team in senior Matt Hoffman's career.
Sept. 10, 2009
Zionsville, Ind. - Illinois head coach Mike Small has been asked many times in the last three months about his team's goals following an historic 2008-09 season. After all, the Illini won a nation's best seven tournaments as a team, claimed the Big Ten title and advanced to the NCAA finals for the fourth time in the last eight seasons. On top of that, Illinois returns the entire roster from that successful year.
Small's response has simply been, "The focus is going to be to continue to grow as players and people. If we continue to do that and address our weaknesses, we're going to hopefully have a good year. We're not going to put any specific goals or expectations. We're going to train hard here and go on the road and have fun at tournaments."
Illinois opens the 2009-10 season this weekend at the Wolf Run Invitational in Zionsville, Ind. The Illini begin the campaign ranked no. 12 in the Golf/World NIKE Golf Coaches' poll after placing 17th and 21st in the last two NCAA Tournaments, respectively. Illinois brings a veteran line-up to the tournament this weekend.
"This summer the guys played against each other in similar events," Small added. "However, they are excited to and play together as a team again. They are all better, but it will be fun to see them in competition first hand."
Senior Zach Barlow heads the five Illinois players in the weekend's tournament. Barlow has two collegiate tournament victories to his credit, including last year's Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational. A week away from trying to defend his title at the event, Barlow brings momentum from a summer where he reached the final match of the 107th Western Amateur and advanced out of stroke play at the U.S. Amateur.
Sophomore Luke Guthrie followed close behind in carrying momentum from the summer. Guthrie posted a dramatic win the Illinois State Amateur after firing a final-round 65 matching Barlow's Illinois Amateur title from 2008. Guthrie advanced to the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur Public Links and reached the U.S. Amateur after firing back-to-back 64s at the qualifying tournament. He really turned up his game in the spring where he capped a season of four top-10 finishes.
Junior Scott Langley earned Second Team All-America and First Team All-All-Big Ten honors in 2009 all the while posting the fourth-best stroke average (72.08) in school history. He finished out of the top 12 just once prior to the NCAA and that was while battling an illness. He also held the first round lead at the NCAA in Toledo.
Senior Matt Hoffman fired a nine-under par round of 62 at the Ontario Amateur en route to a top-15 finish in July. He has one career collegiate win to his credit - at the 2008 Fighting Illini Spring Invitational. He was seventh at the Big Ten Championship and tied for the third at the D.A. Weibring Invitational last year.
After a strong team qualifying performance, freshman Ross Frankenberg broke through as the fifth member of the Illinois line-up this weekend. Frankenberg is the 15th ranked junior player in his class and 49th overall in the nation. He won the 2009 AJGA Midwest Junior Players title and placed fourth at the AJGA Nationwide Insurance Junior event. As a prep, Frankenberg led Barrington (Ill.) High School to back-to-back IHSA top-five finishes as a team while placing third in the state individually in 2008.
Illinois placed second at Wolf Run a year ago, finishing behind only Michigan. Following that event, the Illini began a run of three straight team titles. The Wolverines are back to defend their title this weekend and check in at no. 21 in the preseason poll. Three other Big Ten teams - Indiana, Penn State and Purdue - highlight the field along with UCF, who tied for 10th at the NCAA Championship last year. North Florida, Kansas State, Missouri, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Ball State, Louisville, Tulsa, IUPUI, Iowa State and Toledo round of the field.
"This course sets up well for us and is a future site on an NCAA Regional," Small said. "It's a good field, so we have the mind set that we're here to compete and win."
The tournament starts Saturday at the 7,195-yard course with 36 holes beginning at 8:30 am EDT and concludes with 18 holes on Sunday also starting at 8:30 am.