Last year Illinois claimed the team title at Olympia Fields
Sept. 15, 2009
Olympia Fields, Ill. -
2008 -- Illinois (852), Zach Barlow, Illinois & Alex Martin, Indiana (-1)
2007 -- Oklahoma State (854); Rickie Fowler, OSU (-7)
2006 -- Duke (864), Niklas Lemke, Arizona State (+1)
It is one of the Midwest and indeed the nation's preeminent golfing venues. Olympia Fields Country Club has hosted U.S. Opens in 1928 and 2003 and the 1925 and 1961 PGA Championships. Most recently, the course has become home to one of the top collegiate events in the country each year. This weekend marks the Fourth Annual Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational presented by Cleveland Golf/Srixon. The 54-hole tournament features 18 holes each day from Sept. 18-20.
The tournament has been strong from its inception in 2006 and this year is by far the most elite field in the tournament's short history. That includes host Illinois, whom Golfweek magazine has as its sixth rated team in its preseason edition.
Olympia Fields will provide an early battle for the top spot in the country. The top two teams in the nation - No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Oklahoma State will there as will seven of the top 10 teams in the country and 12 of the top 30. The field includes No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Augusta State, No. 10 Texas, No. 16 USC, No. 18 Florida, No. 25 Florida State, No. 28 Wake Forest and No. 30 San Diego State along with the Big Ten's Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue.
Last year's tournament had a Big Ten flavor as Illinois won the tournament by 11 strokes over Indiana and 12 better than No. 2 Oklahoma State. The Illini's Zach Barlow and the Hoosier's Alex Martin shared the title individually with a tournament record one-under par for 54 holes. Both individuals are back this season to defend their title.
"It is a lot of fun to compete against many of the best teams in the nation," said Illinois senior Matt Hoffman, who is a veteran of two Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitationals. ""This year the field has added three or four more of those top teams, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Golfweek rates Scott Langley as the ninth-best player in the nation. "The Illinois lefty is one of the most underrated players in college golf, " says Golfweek .
Langley will be challenged by four other players listed among the top 10 - Oklahoma State's Morgan Hoffman (2) and Peter Uilein (6), Georgia's Russell Henley (5), and Stanford's Steve Ziegler (7). Other players in the field listed among the top 30 players nationally include Georgia's Harris English and Hudson Swafford, USC's Matt Giles, Stanford's Andrew Yun and David Chung, Wake Forest's Brendan Gielow, Texas' Cody Gribble, Arizona State's Chan Kim and Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway.
Of the ten players who represented the United States in the Walker Cup, four return to college this fall. Of those four, three will be in the field at Olympia Fields this weekend - Hoffman, Uihlein, and Gielow. In addition, Barlow reached the final match at the 107th Western Open.
Besides the elite line-up of teams and players, and the championship level golf course, Olympia Fields has a reputation as a first-class host.
"Every year we hear from players who love going there," Matt Hoffman said. "The course does a tremendous job of hosting."
The Illini are coming off a dominating victory at the season-opening Wolf Run Invitational on Sept. 12-13. That gives Illinois eight tournament titles in its last 13 regular season events. The Illini are a veteran team, having returned everyone from last year's Big Ten championship team and are anxious to see how they fair against some of the nation's best.
Illinois will take the same line-up as last week - Langley, Barlow, Hoffman, Illinois State Amateur champion Luke Guthrie and freshman Ross Frankenberg, who tied for 15th in his first collegiate event last week at Wolf Run.
"What's exciting is everyone is playing well right now," Langley said.