Seventh-ranked Illinois continued its winning ways this week, claiming the title at the 26th Annual Louisiana Classics in Lafayette, La. For head coach Mike Small and the rest of the Illini, it marked the 19th team title in the past four seasons, including three during the 2010-11 campaign.
Playing in its first stroke-play event of the spring, Illinois shot a final round four-under par 284 as a team to finish at -10 (854) for the tournament and defeat No. 9 LSU (-4) by six shots. The Illini and the Tigers were the only two teams to finish under par. The victory avenged a narrow defeat to LSU in the same event in 2010. Host Louisiana-Lafayette placed third in the 15-team tournament at +6 followed by Kent State (+7) and Southeastern Louisiana (+15).
“This was an awesome day for us,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said. “I’m proud of the way we came out relaxed and played with confidence. LSU is a very good team and it was nice to reverse fortunes from last year. To beat a quality team like that in their back yard is encouraging.”
Junior Luke Guthrie played the final 27 holes of the tournament bogey-free, tallying seven birdies and 20 pars, including three birdies in his final round 69. Guthrie tied for second individually, four strokes behind Kent State All-American John Hahn (-10), who joined Andrew Loupe of LSU as the only two players with three straight under par rounds. Loupe, the 2010 Louisiana Classics champion, tied Guthrie for second at -6.
Illinois had three players in the top 10, including senior Chris DeForest, who tied for fourth at -4 after a final round 74, and senior All-American Scott Langley, who tied for ninth at -1 after shooting 69 today. Langley finished with four birdies on his round, including one on his final hole.
“I’m proud of the way Scott came back today,” Small said. “He had some tough breaks in his first two rounds and didn’t finish well. Today he came back and not only started well, but also finished strong by birdying the last hole.”
While Langley continues to be on pace to break Steve Stricker’s Illinois career stroke average record, now with a 72.34 mark, Guthrie is on his heels at 72.48 thanks to consistent play in 2010-11.
“Luke wants to be good and is not scared to go after low numbers,” Small said. “He has worked on some issues mentally and is making good decisions.”
“I struggled with my putting the first round, but I worked my way out of it during the last two” Guthrie said. “It was enough to post two good scores. As far as the team is concerned, there were a lot of good things from the weekend. We had a better game face on and set the tone early today, but also had a solid finish.”
Illinois freshman Thomas Pieters scored an even par 72 in his final round to finish in a tie for 25th at +5 (221) while sophomore teammate Mason Jacobs was one stroke back at +6 (222) after shooting a 75 on the final day. Illinois also had three players competing as individuals, led by senior Clayton Parkhill, who tied for 45th in the 84-man field at +9.
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