Freshman Charlie Danielson is second on the team in stroke average for the season.
Oct. 17, 2012
Champaign, Ill. -
The 13th-ranked Illini head to one of the toughest tournaments of the season this weekend to wrap the fall portion of the schedule. A full squad, which includes three freshmen, will compete at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational in Windermere, Fla., a tournament that features the top three teams in the country.
"We have some depth back in the program," Illinois head coach Mike Small said. "We have four new players out of 10 on our team. Despite that, I feel our progress has been pretty steady."
Illinois won its first two tournaments of the season, the Wolf Run and D.A. Weibring Invitationals. Then at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational, the team was without two of its regulars, junior Thomas Pieters and freshman Thomas Detry, who represented Belgium in the World Amateur Team Golf Championship that week. Those two are back to help lead the team against the challenging field.
In addition to having those gentlemen back, the other story will be the Illini fielding a lineup of three freshmen to go along with Pieters and fifth-year senior Mason Jacobs. Freshman Charlie Danielson is second on the team with a 72.33 stroke average after firing a three-under- par 67 in the final round of the Olympia Fields event. Detry is third in stroke average at 73.00 after posting 10th- and 12th-place finishes, respectively, in his first two events. Freshman David Kim competed as a individual during the first two tournaments, tying for 10th and 13th, respectively. With Pieters and Detry overseas, Kim got an opportunity to crack the the lineup at Olympia Fields and promptly shot 72 to pace the Illini in the first round there. At Isleworth, Kim makes his first appearance in the lineup with a full team available.
"We're taking three true-freshmen to Isleworth, so it's going to be interesting for them to go to an event of this nature," Small said. "But I want to get it in their system now, so that next spring when we get going, it won't be new to them."
Illinois jumped to No. 13 in the polls after the hot start. The Illini are one of eight ranked teams in the field at the 7,544-yard, par-72 Isleworth Golf and Country Club, which is in the backyard of many of the PGA tour players. The field also includes No. 1 California, No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 Florida, No. 8 Arkansas (which won the Olympia Fields event three weeks ago), No. 12 LSU and No. 17 New Mexico. In addition, host UCF, Indiana, North Florida, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt are receiving votes.
"There are a lot of top-ranked teams down there," noted Jacobs. "To go there and get a good finish and hopefully a win would really carry the momentum for us into the winter."
"We are going down in full force to see how we can compete," said Small, whose team has won four straight Big Ten titles. "If it's positive, we are going to come back feeling good. If it's not, we're going to find the silver lining and spend this fall getting better so that next spring, we can catapult ourselves into the national championship picture again. Our mantra has been to win tournaments in the fall and championships in the spring. After this tournament, we're going to start focusing on championships."