Could this be the year that the University of Illinois men’s team finally wins the NCAA title?
Illini coach Mike Small has had some powerhouse teams but this year’s version could be his best. The nation’s No. 3 ranked team captured the school’s eighth straight Big Ten championship (and 13th in 14 years) on Sunday by a whopping 17 strokes at Galloway National in New Jersey.
The romp ended after only 36 holes after heavy rains forced cancelation of play with the third and final round in progress. Illinois stood at 8-under-par 560 after the finish was made official.
“To lead by 17 shots in the second round of a tournament takes a total team effort,’’ said Small. “To do it in just two rounds – not a three-round tournament – is a pretty big win.’’
Tommy Kuhl and Matthis Bezard tied for third in the individual competition, a shot behind co-champions McLear of Iowa and Daniel Svard of Northwestern. McLear is the reigning Illinois State Amateur champion.
Adrien Dumont de Chassart and Jackson Buchanan of the Illini tied for fifth and Piercen Hunt completed the scoring unit in a tie for 13th. The Illini have won 20 Big Ten titles, and this year’s came 100 years after the first, in 1923.
All that is left for the Illini is the NCAA tourney. Regional assignments will be announced at 1 p.m. on Wednesday on The Golf Channel and play begins May 15-17.
NCAA WOMEN – Big Ten champion Illinois is the No. 9 seed in the San Antonio Regional and runner-up Northwestern is the No. 3 seed in the Palm Beach Gardens Regional, in Florida, when the NCAA tourney begins next Monday (MAY 8). NU is the highest-seeded Big Ten team in the tournament.
The Illini and Wildcats also dominated in the league’s individual honors. Crystal Wang of Illinois was the Big Ten medalist and player-of-the-year and Northwestern’s Dianna Lee was the freshman-of-the-year. Emily Fletcher, in her 12th season as the NU coach, was named the Big Ten coach-of-the-year for the fifth time.
NU is making its 13th straight appearance in the NCAA women’s tourney and 20th overall. Illinois is in for the fourth straight year and 10th overall.
LANCE TEN BROECK: One of the best golfers ever to come out of the Chicago area passed on this week in West Palm Beach, FL., after a sudden illness. Ten Broeck, who grew up in Chicago and developed his game at Beverly Country Club, was 67.
He made the cut as a 19-year old at the 1975 U.S. Open at Medinah, made 162 cuts on the PGA Tour from 1975-2010 and was a successful caddie, mainly for Jesper Parnevik, after that.
HERE AND THERE: Northbrook’s Nick Hardy was a late withdrawal from last week’s Mexico Open after teaming with Davis Riley to win the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event. It was the first PGA win for both players, and both will be back in action at this week’s Wells-Fargo Championship in North Carolina.
Mike Weiler has resigned as director of golf at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena and John Schlaman, the head professional at the resort’s South Course, has taken over on an interim basis.
Illinois stars Crystal Wang and Tommy Kuhl will be teammates on the U.S. team in the Arnold Palmer Cup matches against Team Europe June 8-10 at Laurel Valley in Pennsylvania.
The Illinois PGA Match Play Championship, first of the section’s four major tourneys, begins its four-day run on Monday at Bull Valley in Woodstock.
U.S. Open local qualifying resumes on Monday at Illini Country Club in Springfield and on Tuesday at Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake. Aurora’s Bryce Emory was the medalist at the last local qualifier, shooting a 4-under-par 68 last week at Cantigny in Wheaton.