Illini reach 11th consecutive finals

Illini reach 11th consecutive finals

Hear more from Small Thursday at 5:10 on WDWS.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The bar has been set high for the Illinois golf team. And it gets a chance to jump over it.

The Illini finished second in the Columbus Regional on Wednesday to advance to the NCAA championships. The finals are scheduled for May 25-30 at Stillwater, Okla.

"It was a job well done," Illinois coach Mike Small said. "You come here to qualify and that's what we did. We did it pretty comfortably all week. We would have liked to pull out a win. That was important for us to try to do ttat."

The Illini started the final round with a chance to win the regional. But No. 1-ranked Oklahoma State pulled away for an 8-shot win.

The Cowboys were 1-over in the final round, while Illinois was 6-over.

"We were in position with nine holes to go and just didn't close it out," Small said. "We ran into problems that we'll address."

Small said he saw positives.

"We stood toe to toe with the best team in the country for 45 holes," Small said. "I know they have a lot of respect for what we've done in the last decade and vice versa. We know each other."

The top five teams in the region advanced to the championships. Illinois was 25 strokes in front of sixth-place Penn State.

Small's team will look to continue its run of NCAA tournament success.

"It's the same mindset, you've got to take care of your business," Small said. "We've made the match play (quarterfinals) now more than anybody going into this year. We have some experience. That doesn't guarantee a dang thing. We have to understand that."

Illinois has reached the NCAA championships 11 consecutive years.

"I think it's pretty cool," Small said. "It shows stability. It shows consistency in the way we do things. That's something to be proud of."

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