Tate | Illini golf slows down no signs of slowing down | Sports

From an athletic standpoint, the University of Illinois is a “golf school”.

Men’s golf, that is to say. Coach Mike Small. Quality facilities and always adding to it.

Eleven Big Ten Championships out of the last 12.

They reached the NCAA title game in 2013 (lost to Alabama), Final Fours in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and Elite Eights in 2011, 2014, and 2021.

Checking out Josh Whitman’s 19 sports department, no other program has earned such respect.

➜ Bret Bielema has hit campus like a firestorm and is bringing back 21 “super seniors” in the fall.

But media pundits and gambling publications – unable to ignore dismal decades – nonetheless pick Illinois at or near the bottom of their Big Ten football projections.

Brad Underwood brought men’s basketball out of the doldrums. But with Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn seemingly turning pro, “too early” screenings push the Illini out of the Top 25.

âžœ Men’s tennis – 23-3 last season and host of the NCAA Championships in 2022 – has beaten the power of Ohio State for a decade or more and won the Big Ten tournament this year.

But Brad Dancer’s team “had no respect” in recent NCAA rankings and fell to the Florida national champion, 4-0, in the round of 16 in Orlando, Fla. With Minnesota and Iowa dropping out of the sport, and with Rutgers and Maryland already gone, it’s no wonder the southern tennis powers are bashing the Big Ten.

âžœ The dominant women’s sport in Illinois, volleyball, was 16-14 and 7-11 for the past two seasons after peaking at 32-4 in 2018. Softball has won over 30 games in four consecutive seasons until 2019, but it’s gone to 11-11 and 24-20 since then. Women’s teams, especially basketball, have some catching up to do.

Major Support Golf in Illinois starts at the top with the chairman of the UI board in Small’s corner.

Don Edwards is a former Illini golfer who has made multi-million dollar contributions to a program that is currently carrying out massive renovations to turn Atkins Golf Club (formerly Stone Creek) in Urbana into a near-private reserve worthy of ‘a tour of Small.

The oddity is that while tens of thousands of Illini sports fans keep abreast of former Illini Steve Stricker and silently cheer on former and current Small athletes, few followers have seen Michael Feagles senior stepping down. in action, and even less his Belgian teammates Giovanni Tadiotto and Adrien. Dumont de Chassart and the Dutchman Jerry Ji (many top teams have several international players).

We are very proud of the most important Nordic golf program here among us, despite the fact that we can only know them by what we hear and read.

One day, Small will bring major competition to Atkins, but the recent delayed fall schedule began in February and included trips to Florida, Alabama, Louisiana twice, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana twice. times, in Ohio, Oklahoma and in the final in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Even the annual fundraiser is conducted elsewhere at Olympia Fields in suburban Chicago.

In this regard, Small has been shown to be as adept at influencing gifts as he is at recruiting, teaching, motivating, and demonstrating with his own high-level game. He personally raised over $ 20 million to cover more than a $ 6 million indoor facility, the adjacent $ 5.1 million practice area, and the new addition of $ 2 million.

Considering the state of the program when it took office in 2000 – and its connection to donors – we could start a good debate as to whether it could be Illini’s first coach in 50 years … or more.

Still Drawing What we’re seeing is a program that has made giant strides in Illinois as the sport itself has grabbed the headlines in recent years with numerous shutdowns.

Due to a wave of lavish layouts in the 1980s to support the national homebuilding industry, prices eventually overtook the players. By the year 2000 arrived, over 4,000 new courses had been built in the United States, and an inevitable slide began.

As of June 2019, some 800 courses have been declared closed over the past decade.

Locally, we see the zone courts in Mahomet and Rantoul moving forward despite serious financial constraints, as evidenced by the reduction in maintenance and in particular the deterioration of the sand bunkers.

Some numbers have risen even as last year’s COVID-19 pandemic swept the country. Golf director Mike Wallner reports that the 36-hole course at the University of Illinois at Savoy has been busy accommodating 275 to 325 players over the weekend.

“The difference,” Wallner said, “is that about 70 percent of the ride. That includes all ages. It seems like golf was the only thing people felt comfortable doing during the pandemic. I saw a lot of people that I had never seen before.

It boils down to this: Golf courses might be oversized and many links struggling, but despite the frustrations that come with it, golf is still the # 1 hobby for men and women over 40. and retirees.

As a result, participants of all ages tend to follow younger competitors (like the Illini), even if they may not be able to actually see them.

About Kimberly Alley

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