BRADENTON, Fla. -- Illinois started its eighth consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships off with a bang. The Fighting Illini sit two-under par, holding on to the tournament lead as a team. Illinois has a two-stroke lead on Georgia and a three-stroke advantage on USC. Junior Thomas Detry fired a four-under par, first-round tally to lead Illinois and sit among the tournament leaders himself. Detry is tied for second overall.
"I thought it was a solid day," head coach Mike Small said of the opening round. "This course is difficult but it's gettable. For the most part, we played great golf today. On this course, if you throw out a 74, I'm proud of that."With a front nine tally at even par, Detry was on fire after the turn. He tallied four consecutive birdies to start the back nine and move up to take a temporary lead in the tournament. Detry recorded two bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes, but he recovered with two birdies to finish the round on a high note.
"He got it going, and that's what Thomas can do," Small said of Detry's finish. "He has done it all year. He got off to a great start on the back nine before running into a couple roadblocks, which happens, but then he birdied the last two holes. I'm happy for him, that kind of play warms my heart."
It was a bit of a slow start for the Orange and Blue, with freshman Dylan Meyer notching a bogey right off the bat. He quickly recovered with two birdies on the front nine, but he again started the back nine with a bogey. Meyer shot even on the back nine as he negated his two bogeys with two birdies at the end of play. Meyer closed the day at even par to tie with teammate Brian Campbell for 24th in the tournament.
One of the few Illini who have seen this course before, Campbell started the round at even par as well. A birdie on the 7th hole gave him a front nine score one-under par, but he was back even thanks to a bogey on hole 10. Campbell held strong for the rest of the round to finish with a score of 72 on the day.
After watching his sister win a national title at The Concession, junior Charlie Danielson came out with a solid round for the Illini. He started the day with a birdie on the third hole, but was at even par before the turn. Danielson posted two birdies on the 11th and 13th holes to start the back nine strong, but three consecutive bogeys gave him a two-over par tally for the day. Danielson and freshman Nick Hardy are tied for 53rd individually.
Another Illini to start the day at even par, a bogey on the sixth hole gave Hardy a one-over tally for the front nine. After the turn, Hardy got off to a better start, posting a birdie on the 10th hole. Hardy would tally three bogeys on the back nine, only adding one more birdie to his total.
"We have got to come out and do the whole thing over again tomorrow," Small said about the team's preparation for Saturday's morning rounds. "We have to deal with what is thrown to us. I think tomorrow morning it will be softer, a little bit cooler, I don't think it will be as firm and fast. If it rains it will be a little softer for everyone. Tomorrow is typically the day you can go and get it in the morning."