NEW HAVEN, Conn. –
The University of Illinois men’s golf season came to an abrupt end at Yale Golf Course on Wednesday, as the Fighting Illini finished tied for sixth with only five team’s advancing through to the 2022 NCAA Championship.
The No. 20-ranked Illini entered the final round five strokes off the cut line, but were only able to make up one stroke over the final 18, finishing with a 54-hole tally of 838 (-2), knotted with Virginia, four shots back of the final qualifier, No. 49 Georgia Southern (834). No. 17 Wake Forest (814) won the regional title at 26-under, followed by No. 5 North Carolina (821) in second, and No. 8 Texas Tech and No. 39 North Florida tied for third at 824 (-16).
The result snaps a streak of 13 consecutive seasons in which the Illini advanced past regionals under head coach Mike Small, a run that began in 2008 and ranked second nationally only to Texas’ 14 straight entering the 2022 postseason.
“We just picked a bad week to play bad,” Small said. “From Day 1, we talk about it; if you don’t hit your standard these things can happen, and we didn’t hit our standard this week. We didn’t drive it well, our lag putting, and our scoring shots around the greens were not very good, and we just struggled all week. It’s a disappointing way to end the season. This hasn’t happened to us for a while, and it’s something that we don’t want to get used to.”
The Illini were unable to find the complete team effort that has been a hallmark of the program for more than two decades under Small’s guidance. Individually, however, some bright spots shined through during the week, and with Adrien Dumont de Chassart and Tommy Kuhl set to return for as super-seniors, the Orange and Blue turn the page and begin working toward the start of a new NCAA Championship streak in 2022-23.
“We’re optimistic about next year. We’re excited about (Adrien and Tommy returning), but I think we showed today that we need to get batter. Everyone needs to get better. You’re only as good as your standard, and we’ve got to be more consistent with everything that we do. Obviously the potential is there, but the development has to continue.”
Kuhl shot 2-under for the second straight round and closed as the Illini top finisher with a 54-hole total of 207 (-3) to tie for 12th. Kuhl’s finish is his best in three career NCAA Regional appearances, and his second top-20 regional finish after tying for 20th as a freshman at Myrtle Beach in 2019.
Dumont de Chassart finished one stroke off Kuhl’s total for the week at 208 (-2), but closed with a 72 after dipping into the 60s in both Round 1 (69) and Round 2 (67). Dumont de Chassart now own’s three top-15 regional finishes in his career after tying for fourth at Myrtle Beach in 2019 and grabbing a share of third at Stillwater in 2021. Dumont de Chassart also closes the 2021-22 season as Illinois’ new single-season record holder for stroke average, posting a 70.08 (2,523 strokes over 36 rounds) to break the mark of 70.55 set just last season by former teammate Michael Feagles.
Sophomore Piercen Hunt and freshman Jackson Buchanan, making their first NCAA Regionals appearances, finished 36th and tied for 37th, respectively. Hunt led the event after carding a career-low 64 (-6) in Round 1, while Buchanan joined Kuhl and Dumont de Chassart as the only Illini to factor into the team scoring in all three rounds. Junior Jerry Ji tied for 57th after shooting 76-73-72 to finish with an 11-over 221 on the week.
Overall, the Illini close the 2021-22 season with four team victories, including winning a conference-record seventh consecutive (and 12th of 13) Big Ten Championship earlier this month at The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.
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