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Len Ziehm On Golf

Illini off to good NCAA start on another bad weather day at Rich Harvest

The miserable weather that plagued the NCAA women’s golf championship last week unfortunately carried over to the men’s event as well.

Friday’s first round of the men’s competition at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove couldn’t be completed, and Big Ten champion Illinois is one of the teams with holes left to play today before the second round can begin.

The Illini stand in a tie for fifth place with all of the team’s players through 10 holes. Freshman Michael Feagles, the first Illini to tee off, set a fast pace for his teammates and stands in a tie for third individually at 3-under-par through 14 holes.

“He was huge, and I’m excited for him,’’ said junior Nick Hardy, playing in the fifth spot. “He’s carrying us this round.’’

Coach Mike Small felt the same way.

“The guys did a great job,’’ he said. “They had a good nervous about them, but they were going about their business. I’m very happy.’’

The Illini had 1 p.m. as their first tee time and play was stopped at 3:04. After two false starts play resumed at 6:50 p.m. and was stopped by darkness at 8 p.m.

Vanderbilt, at 8-under through 15 holes, was the team leader followed by Auburn, which had completed play at 6-under. Oklahoma State (5-under through 15) and Southern California (4-under through 15) also led the Illini, who were in a tie for fifth at 3-under with Nevada-Las Vegas, Louisiana State and Baylor.

Defending champion Oregon, which is paired with the Illini in the first two rounds, is tied for 11th and Texas, featuring Arlington Height native Doug Ghim, is tied for 14th.

Small had no problem with the delays, but admitted they required adjustments.

“At first we were building for a great day. We were at 4- or 5-under, then the rain came,’’ he said. “After that we played strong, given the conditions. Delays are all part of golf. The rain came, then the wind. The course changed dramatically in 15 minutes.’’

Some of the early starters did finish their rounds. They included Dawson Armstrong, who won the Western Amateur at Rich Harvest in 2015, and Trent Wallace, the first Illinois State golfer to play in the national finals since the Redbirds’ team made it in 1975. That squad included D.A. Weibring, the veteran PGA Tour player. Wallace qualified for the finals as an individual.

Armstrong, who is part of the David Lipscomb team qualifier, shot 1-under-par 71, which put him in a tie for 24th place and five strokes behind Mississippi’s Braden Thornberry, who posted the low individual round of opening day – a 66.

A holed bunker shot by Armstrong two years ago decided the Western Amateur title in a playoff. Course owner Jerry Rich has been urged to install a plaque commemorating Armstrong’s winning shot but so far hasn’t done it.

“It’d be a little weird putting a plaque in a bunker,’’ said Armstrong, “but it would be cool to put it beside the bunker.’’

Armstrong said he would return to this year’s Western Amateur, which will be played at Skokie Country Club. Illinois’ Dylan Meyer will also defend his title, so the prestigious amateur event will have the rarity of the two most recent past winners in its field.

Wallace, a sophomore from Joliet, shot 73 and called the course “a beast.’’ He was greeted by 40-50 cheering fans at the first tee and received a handshake from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who made a 90-minute visit. Though Wallace is an in-state player he is making his first visit to Rich Harvest.