With the Big Ten Championship just a few weekends away, the University of Illinois Men’s Golf team traditionally has taken the weeks between the Augusta Invitational and the Robert Kepler/Boilermaker Invitational off to prepare for the Big Ten Championship at the end of the month of April. What the schedule has been missing, though, is a “match play” event to help players prepare for the NCAA Tournament format that was adopted in 2009. With players facing their opponents in head-to-head rounds, it’s valuable playing experience to compete in this format before teams gather for the national championship.
To help the reigning Big Ten Champions hone their games for the match play format at nationals, the Fighting Illini announced at the beginning of April that they would be adding a home-meet against the Bradley Braves in a one-day match play event at Stone Creek Golf Club in Urbana this Saturday. Since this is the first time the team will be playing at home since 2011, here’s everything you will need to know about the event:
Where is it again?
Stone Creek Golf Club
2600 S Stone Creek Blvd, Urbana, Illinois 61802
How much does it cost to go?
Admission for everyone is free, parking is free, the bathrooms on the course are free, and there’s a water fountain behind the fifth green that is free! FREE.
What can I/should I bring?
Great question. If this happens to be the first golf event you have ever attended, get ready to walk...a lot. Wear your tennis/running shoes, because you will be covering a little over 4 miles of golf course. Feel free to bring a water bottle and a granola bar to keep yourself well hydrated out there, and feel free to head to Attie’s Bar and Grill if you’re looking for lunch. They will be serving food and drinks all day long, including the classic “hot dog at the turn” with an Arnold Palmer. Don’t feel like you need to sit down and eat; they make lunches for hungry golfers daily!
Sunglasses and binoculars are GREAT if you’re planning on staying in one spot to watch groups come through, and feel free to bring a camp chair/stool along for a comfy seat! Bonus points if you hike all 18 holes with one of these little beauties (you can find them at Walmart, Target, Dicks, or any sporting goods/golf shop). If you’re not able to walk the course due to personal circumstances, or if you would like to roll around in a golf cart all afternoon, there are carts available to rent for $15! KEEP. THE. CARTS. ON. THE. CART PATH.
There is rain in the forecast for Saturday, so please make sure you bring a rain jacket or umbrella. The Stone Creek pro shop will likely have some jackets and/or umbrellas for sale, but it’s in your best interest to be prepared before you show up to the course. IF THE EVENT GETS DELAYED OR POSTPONED DUE TO RAIN, THE MEET WILL BE PLAYED SUNDAY STARTING AT 10 a.m.
Speaking of rain jackets and tennis shoes, what should I wear?
Orange! Lots and lots of orange! You are more than welcome to wear an Illini t-shirt with jeans and tennis shoes if you would like, but the “traditional” golf fan can be found wearing a polo shirt with shorts/nicer jeans/golf pants and comfortable shoes. If you want to wear your golf shoes, PLEASE make sure your spikes are soft (no metal spikes — your friendly neighborhood groundskeeper thanks you in advance). Biggest thing are your shoes, make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes. Thank us later.
This is a home match, so wear your orange and blue proudly! These guys get it:
When are the tee times?
The first group will be teeing off at 10 a.m. on Saturday off Hole No. 1. Here are the unofficial tee-times and pairings.
We’re taking an educated guess right now, official tee times will be posted ASAP.
* - subject to change
10:00am - Bryan Baumgarten vs. Daniel Lensing
10:10am - Giovanni Tadiotto vs. Michael Mounce
10:20am - Brendan O’Reilly vs. Branden Mounce
10:30am - Varun Chopra vs. Matthew Specht
10:40am - Michael Feagles vs. Drake Bushong
10:50am - Nick Hardy vs. Zach Jewell
11:00am - Dylan Meyer vs. Ethan Brue
What about the course? Where should I go when we get there?
First thing to do is find a scorecard in the golf shop. Scorecards are free and a GREAT way to follow along with yardages the players will be facing. There is also a course map on the scorecard, which comes in handy if you venture out from the clubhouse. If you’re looking to roam the grounds at Stone Creek — we highly recommend you do — here are a few of our favorite spots to catch a LOT of action...
If you don’t want to leave the clubhouse area:
Tee times will likely be every ten minutes starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, which means you will have time to catch some of your favorite players starting their rounds on the first tee (yellow box lower right). Groups will make their way back toward the clubhouse on the third hole (par 3, middle yellow box) which always plays tough because wind is VERY tough to judge at Stone Creek, and there’s trouble everywhere at 3.
Once the players have finished the hole, walk with them to the fourth tee box. Hole 4 is a long par 5 that players will try to reach in two, so expect to see some big swings on the fourth tee box. This rotation of three spots will be a GREAT way to start the day.
As players make their way back to the clubhouse at the turn (likely starting around noon-ish), find a spot on the hills behind the ninth green (red circles). This is a par 5 that guys will be able to reach in two, so keep an eye open for approach shots (this is where binoculars help). When the players finish 9, walk with them to the 10th tee to watch them start their back 9. The final red circle is behind the 18th green. Since this event is match play, THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT GROUPS WILL PLAY THE 18TH HOLE. However, if matches do come down to the final hole, stay to the left of the putting surface. It’s a great spot to catch all the action at the conclusion of the matches.
If you feel like camping close to the clubhouse:
As mentioned above, the fourth hole is a par 5 that players will be playing aggressively to try and get an early lead in their matches. Find a spot behind the green so you can watch the groups make their way through this stretch of holes on the front 9. From that spot, you can also see the ninth tee box (right) and the eighth green (top). You can also take a short walk from your chair behind the fourth green and watch the guys attack the treacherous fifth hole.
Need to get back to the clubhouse? It’s only a 500-yard walk (follow the pink arrow).
Best Spots for Front 9 and Back 9:
There’s a lot here, but it’s the best spot to watch a LOT of golf.
First, the yellow boxes. You have the back of the fifth green (lots of water, exciting hole), the 6th tee (driveable par 4), and the back of the par 3 seventh hole/eighth tee box. All three spots are outstanding places to watch different shots and experience different strategies. The pink arrow will bring you back towards the clubhouse/4th green/9th tee.
Then, the red boxes. The 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th are the most like places for matches to conclude, so be sure to follow groups during that stretch of golf. The 15th is a great par 5, followed by the tricky 16th and the exciting par 3 17th hole. As groups start the finishing stretch, we’d recommend you park behind the 14th green to watch the players take on 14 green, 15 tee, and the 17th tee shot. Follow the orange line down the 17th, and across the street to the 18th hole to get back to the clubhouse.
Oh...and that blue circle you see? Bathrooms :)
If I’m walking the course, where should I stand?
This is a great question, as there will not be any ropes on the course to show you where to stand. We’ll give you four easy rules...
- Don’t stand on ANY putting surfaces. Anywhere. Anytime.
- Please keep off the fairway & teeing grounds.
- Keep out of hazards, including sand traps and ponds.
- Give players some space. It’s recommended that you give players at least 50 feet of space to take practice swings, hit shots, etc etc if they happen to venture off the fairway.
What about the players? Can I interact with them?
While there are no written rules on this, please don’t initiate any conversation with the players while the matches are taking place. Any advice you may give a player can cost them the hole, and potentially the match. Remember, you’re representing Illinois fans by being at events like this, so PLEASE keep our golf fan reputation sparkling.
Golf Channel has made it known that Illinois fans are “some of the smartest fans in college golf, and should be applauded for their respect of the players and coaches.”
Feel free to say “nice shot” or “good putt” if a player (on either side) hits a good shot. Or a “good luck (insert player name here)” when players are inbetween the green and the next tee is perfectly acceptable. It’s a golf event, you are more than welcome to break out your finest “golf clap” whenever you see fit. The guys on both teams are all VERY classy and generally respond to nice comments/applause you give them. If an Illini player wins a hole, throw an “ILL!” out there. Just please be respectful to players on both teams.
And for the love of (insert deity of choice here), do NOT be the “GET IN THE HOLE!!!” or “BABA-BOOEY!!!” guy. Those guys are lame. Don’t be lame.
Can I take pictures/use my phone?
Rule No. 1: Keep your phone on silent at all times. You can absolutely take pictures or videos of the guys during play, but please do NOT ask them to take a picture with you/your kids or sign autographs during play. After the round? ABSOLUTELY! In fact, the whole team will be available to autograph Illini Men’s Golf Posters in the clubhouse at the conclusion of play. But please keep phone calls/texts to a minimum during play.
But again, please feel free to document your day at Stone Creek! If you make it out for the event, please tweet your pictures to us (or send them on Facebook) and we will share them with Illini nation! Rock the #GolfSchool hashtag so we can find you easily, and tag us at @Champaign_Room.
Which players should we follow?
All of them! Duh.
We previewed every player on the roster at the beginning of the season, and you can read about them here.
The championship roster will be five players, and six guys are realistically in the running at the moment. Dylan Meyer is not just one of the most polarizing players in college golf, but he’s coming off his second consecutive win at the Augusta 3M Championship.
Nick Hardy is always steady as a rock, and he already has some exemptions on the Web.com tour this summer.
Bryan Baumgarten is the story right now, as he’s playing five shots better in spring than he did in fall.
Michael Feagles has been the solid “three” in the rotation since last year, leaving Hinsdale’s Brendan O’Reilly and Belgium’s Giovanni Tadiotto to compete for the final spot. Don’t count out the freshman Varun Chopra though! The Champaign native is one of many players that provide a bright future ahead for the program, and he knows the course better than anyone!
All in all, we think it’s wise to watch as many players as you possibly can.
If you have ANY other questions about the event, please ask away in the comment section!
Our Golf staff writer Brad Repplinger can also be reached on Twitter at @TCRBrad, or by email (check the address in his profile at the top of the article).
Hope to see you out there this weekend, and GO ILLINI!!!