Hensby, Illini teams joined Hardy in big Illinois golf weekend

Last weekend was like no other as far as Illinois golf is concerned, and Nick Hardy’s first PGA Tour win at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans was just one of the extraordinary developments.

Here are the others:

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS – Mark Hensby, whose best golf came on Illinois courses years ago,  notched his first win on the 50-and-over circuit in the Invited Celebrity Classic at Las Colinas, in Texas. Hensby, 51, had only conditional status on the tour until he beat Charlie Wi on the fourth hole of a sudden death playoff on Sunday after both played the regulation 54 holes in 12-under-par 201.

Hensby was still an amateur when he left his native Australia to move to Chicago  in 1994. He won the Illinois State Amateur that year. Two years later he took the Illinois Open. In 2000 he earned membership on the PGA Tour and in 2004 he won the John Deere Classic.

After that he moved on from Illinois and his career tailed off.  In 94 PGA Tour starts between 2007 and 2022 he collected just four top-10 finishes but he fit right in when he became eligible for PGA Tour Champions.  He had two top-three finishes this year prior to his win in Texas.  He’s now third in the Charles Schwab Cup standings behind David Toms and Steve Stricker.

“Now I can set a schedule. I know what I’m going to get in now,’’ said Hensby, who earned $300,000 from the tourney’s $2 million purse.

ILLINI WOMEN – Coach Renee Slone’s team won its first Big Ten title in program history and Crystal Wang became the first Illini medalist since Slone (formerly Heiken) won the title in 1993.

Wang fired a 9-under-par 62 to match the Illini record for low round, and it was also the lowest round in tournament history.  Wang finished the 54 holes in 12-under-par 201 and was the only player to finish under par for the tournament.

The Illini finished solo second in the Big Ten in 1976, the school’s first year with a women’s golf team, and tied for second in 2018 and 2019. Wang was the fourth conference medalist from the school.  Slone was the individual champion in both 1991 and 1993.  Becky Beach (1976) and Becky Biel (1992) were also Big Ten medalists.

In winning the conference title the Illini received the league’s automatic NCAA regional birth, and they’ll find out where they will be playing when selections are announced on Wednesday.

ILLINI MEN – Coach Mike Small’s team won the first event at the recently renovated home course at Atkins Golf Club in Urbana by a whopping 26 strokes. The Fighting Illini Spring Collegiate featured nine teams with fifth-year senior Adrien Dumont de Chassart of the host team edging out Northwestern’s Daniel Svard by two strokes for medalist honors.

Dumont De Chassart notched his fourth collegiate win and had four second-place finishes since his last one at Purdue’s Boilermaker Invitational in 2022.

Small’s team, ranked No. 3 in the nation, will go after its eighth straight Big Ten title and 13th in the last 14 years beginning on Friday at Galloway National in New Jersey. The NCAA regionals follow that.

HERE AND THERE: Both Nick Hardy and Davis Riley took home $1,242,700 for winning the Zurich Classic on Sunday.  The total purse was $8.6 million….Brett Barcel has retired as director of golf at Mount Prospect. He’s been on the staff there since 1994.  Jeff Langguth, moving up from head professional, replaces Barcel as director of golf….The Bill “Soup’’ Campbell Open For Prostate Cancer has been scheduled for June 2 at Hilldale, in Hoffman Estates.  The event honors the late former relief pitcher who spent 14 seasons in the major leagues including 1982-83 with the Cubs.