- Illinois men's golf photo
Big, bad, brawny and in a rotten mood all week, Crooked Stick Golf Club flexed its muscle and bared its razor-sharp teeth while playing host to the Big Ten Championships which wrapped on Sunday in Carmel, Ind.
At the conclusion of the 54-hole event, it was Illinois and Iowa’s Mac McClear who emerged from the wind-whipped field of competitors to earn the honor of being called Big Ten champions. Collectively, the field was 664-over par on the Pete Dye-designed course which first received notoriety after John Daly’s improbable run to the 1991 PGA Championship.
The 11th-ranked Fightin’ Illini posted a winning score of 19-over 883 to claim their sixth straight conference title by one stroke over second-place Iowa, while Northwestern finished a distant third at 33-over 897. McClear, the only player in the field to finish under par for the tournament, earned medalist honors with a winning score of 1-under 215, good for a three-stroke victory over teammate Alex Schaake, Purdue’s Joe Weiler and Adriene Dumont de Chassart of Illinois who all finished at 2-over 218. Illinois’ Michael Feagles carded a 220 (+4) to finish fifth. All five players earned spots on the Big Ten All-Championships team. Feagles was also honored with the Big Ten’s Les Bolstad Award, given to the conference player with the lowest stroke average (70.83) during the 2020-21 season.
After finishing the first round with a share of the lead with Iowa and Michigan State, the Illini, under the direction of head coach Mike Small, turned at 6-over par score of 294 in round two to take a two-stroke lead over Iowa heading into Sunday’s final round. Illinois closed with a 1-over 289 to fend off the Hawkeyes, who managed an even par 288 over the par-72, 7,325-yard Crooked Stick layout. It marks Illinois 18th Big Ten title overall and its 11th in last 12 tries.
"Winning or losing is just a by-product of how you operate that day, and how you handle situations," said Small. "We were down and out; it was not looking good. But we built a little momentum - it started on No. 9 and No. 10 - and all of a sudden, we just caught the train and played really solid. Eight-under par the last 10 holes for our scoring guys, and 10-under over the last 10 holes for our entire team, in these conditions and on this golf course is pretty special."
Giovanni Tadiotto and Feagles were instrumental in Illinois’ Sunday push. After rounds of 83 and 76, Tadiotto was 4-over on his Sunday card through four holes following a bogey on No. 3 and a triple on No. 4. However, the fifth-year senior played the final 14 holes at 5-under par, which included an eagle on the par 5 11th hole. He finished 1-under on the day to jump from 52 nd into a tie for 29 th place on the final leaderboard. Feagles shook off an opening round 77 to shoot a 71 on Saturday before closing with an even par round of 72 to finish fifth.
The Illini also counted matching 73s by junior Tommy Kuhl and sophomore Jerry Ji who were each playing in their first Big Ten Championships.
McClear is the second Iowa player to win the Big Ten Conference championship. The sophomore from Hinsdale, Ill., found himself tied for seventh place after an opening round 74, but played his final two rounds 3-under par (70-71) to claim his second victory of the season following a win at the Spartan Collegiate Cup at Sea Island. He entered Sunday’s final round tied for the lead and made the turn at 1-over, but birdied both par-5’s on the back nine to finish with a 71, good for a one stroke victory over a trio of golfers.
“I thought I was really good mentally,” says McClear. “The course was playing really hard, so it was necessary to think your way around the course. Obviously [we are] a little disappointed we came up one shot short, but a very solid week for us. It should give us a lot of momentum continuing into the postseason.”
Rutgers’ Christopher Gotterrup moved 15 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for sixth place after turning a 4-under 68, which matched the low round of the tournament.
With the win, Illinois earns the Big 10’s automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals. Iowa and Indiana, ranked 38th and 44th in the latest Golfstat team ratings, figure to be in line for an at-large berth while Ohio State (64th) still maintains hope for a postseason berth. The field for the 2021 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship will be released as part of GOLF Channel's College Central coverage on Wednesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. ET.
NCAA Regionals are slated for May 17-19, and at six sites: The Sagamore Golf Club (Noblesville, Ind.), Seminole Legacy Golf Club (Tallahassee, Fla.), Championship Course at University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, N.M.), Karsten Creek Golf Club (Stillwater, Okla.), Golf Club of Tennessee (Kingston Springs,
Tenn.), and Tumble Creek Golf & Country Club (Cle Elum, Wash.).
Illinois, Iowa, Big Ten Athletic Communications contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE Big Ten Championship
54 hole men's collegiate championship of the
Big Ten Conference. Team (best four scores out of
players each round) and individual competitions.
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