(ISN) – Champaign, Ill. – Seven years ago, the first Big Ten Match Play Championship was played with Illinois featured as the top seed in the tournament.
This spring, after producing a successful fall season comprised of three first-place tournament finishes in four team appearances, the top-ranked Fighting Illini will enter the Big Ten Match Play Championship as the top seed for the seventh consecutive year.
The Big Ten Match Play Championship is set to take place Sunday and Monday at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida and the event will be contested on two distinct par-72 courses. The championship bracket will be played out on Hammock Beach Resort’s Conservatory Course, which has been featured in Golfweek’s top-40 “Best Tour Courses You Can Play” on three separate occasions. Alternatively, teams placed in the round-robin and consolation bracket matches will compete on Hammock Beach Resort’s Ocean Course, another well-renowned course that was named to Golfweek’s 2013 top-10 courses to play in Florida.
Illinois secured its first Big Ten match-play victory in February of 2013, and this year the Orange and Blue look to replicate that outcome after putting together a strong fall season.
“We had a good fall season which is why we’re ranked and seeded so high, but it’s a new season now and that’s how we have to look at it,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said. “We’ve faced adversity at this event in the past, but we’re hoping to overcome it and earn a win this year.”
As the No. 1 seed, Illinois receives a bye into the quarterfinals and will face the winner of Purdue (8)/Michigan State (9) at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday. The two semifinal matches will tee off Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. and 7:10 a.m. CT, followed by the championship match, which is set for a noon tee time on Monday. The four other first-round matches include No. 7 seed Michigan vs. No. 10 Wisconsin, No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 14 Nebraska, No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 13 Rutgers, No. 5 Northwestern vs. No. 12 Indiana and No. 6 Penn State vs. No. 11 Minnesota. No. 2 Ohio State also receives a bye into the quarterfinal and will face the winner of Michigan/Wisconsin.
“We’ve been seeded No. 1 every year of the tournament, but we’ve only won the event once. That’s just the nature of the beast with match play; any team can win,” Small said. “While it is nice to have the first-round bye on Sunday morning, the disadvantage is that the teams we will face will have already experienced the course on thefirst day before we even begin. Our guys are just going to have to be more focused when we tee off in the afternoon.”
Each team pairing consists of five individual matches that count for one point apiece. Charlie Danielson, Thomas Detry, Brian Campbell, Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer will represent Illinois at the event.
The Orange and Blue won their first Big Ten Match Play title two years ago in 2013 after finishing in the top six of the 2012 event that was left unfinished because of darkness.Illinois finished fourth in 2011, fifth in 2010 and fourth in 2009.