Illini Need Regional Comeback Effort to Keep NCAA Championship Appearances Streak Alive

A 2-over-par round on Tuesday saw Mike Small’s Big Ten champion Illini squad put themselves in a deep hole in the NCAA New Haven Regional.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

May 17, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

Illinois will need a large comeback to keep the streak of appearances in the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship alive.

The Illini finished the second round of the 2022 NCAA New Haven Regional hosted by Yale five shots behind the fifth and last transfer spot into the NCAA Championships to be played on May 27-June 1 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Entering the week, Illinois has made it out of a NCAA Regional 13 consecutive times, a streak that ranks second nationally to Texas' 14 in row.

Illini head coach Mike Small was unpleasantly surprised on Monday with what he referred to as an uncharacteristic slow start in the first round but the trend continued at Yale Golf Club this morning. Illinois players, which again started on the longer back nine of the par-70, 6,409-yard track, bogeyed seven of the first 35 holes of the day putting the Illini in a deep hole as compared to the top teams looking to all but secure their spots in Arizona next weekend. Since the first season Small took over the Illini golf program at his alma mater (2001-02), Illinois has only failed to advance out of NCAA regional play just one time (2004).

The Illini find themselves in sixth place with a two-round team total of 5-under 555 following a 2-over-par 282 score in the second round. Illinois will be paired Wednesday morning with Texas Tech, which sits in the fifth and final transfer spot five shots ahead of the Illini and six shots ahead of seventh place Virginia with a two-day total of 10-under-par 550.

A day after being tied with North Carolina for the last NCAA transfer spot, the Tar Heels, ranked No. 5 in the nation, blitzed the course on Tuesday with Ryan Gerard and Austin Greaser combining to post a 12-under-par total between them. North Carolina’s four-player team total of 13-under-par 267 matches the lowest team score of the week and the lowest ever team score at a NCAA Regional at Yale Golf Club. North Carolina’s second-round run makes it a likely two-team battle for the regional championship between Atlantic Coast Conference powers as Wake Forest holds on to a slim one-shot lead over UNC at 21-under-par.

Illinois seniors Adrien Dumont de Chassart and Tommy Kuhl combined to shoot 5-under-par on Tuesday as Dumont de Chassart shot a front-nine (which was his final nine holes), 4-under-par 30 to post a second consecutive under-par round of 67 to back up his first round 69. Dumont de Chassart, the back-to-back Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, moved up 22 spots on the individual leaderboard on Tuesday and now sits just six back of Gerarda, a fifth-year senior from Raleigh, N.C., who has the third lowest season scoring average in UNC school history.

Kuhl, who just recently won medalist honors at a U.S. Open Local Qualifying event, went bogey free on his first 14 holes of the day to post a 2-under-par 68 to move into red figures for the week at 1-under-par 139. The Morton native has made only four bogeys in his first 36 holes of play.

North Florida, the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament champions, and Georgia Southern, which snuck in with one of the last at-large bids into a NCAA regional field, are both in position to advance to a NCAA Championship as they both stand tied for third at 12-under-par 548.

The fall of the Illini on Tuesday could be pointed to the dramatic dip of sophomore Piercen Hunt. The left-hander from Wisconsin saw his first round lead in the individual medalist race following a career-low 64 disappear fast after he bogeyed three holes in a row (No. 12, 13, and 14) early in his second round. The Hartland, Wisconsin native would eventually card a birdie-free, 76 to tumble 27 spots on the leaderboard and finish out of red figures for the tournament with a two-day total of even-par 140. After keeping the Illinois team in the race on Monday, Hunt’s second round score was dropped from the team total on the following day.

With scores being low at Yale Golf Club this week, Illinois may need a historic team round to keep its NCAA Championship qualifying streak alive. The lowest 18-hole team score from an Illini team is 264 in route to winning the 2016 Big Ten Conference Tournament but 268 is the program’s second-best team score accomplished four times with the most recent being in the 2018 Big Ten Conference Tournament.

The Illini will be paired with Texas Tech and Georgia Southern starting on No. 10 with the playing order for the final round being flipped (No. 5 players going first) beginning at 7 a.m. CST.

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