The Illinois men's golf team begins NCAA regional play today at Myrtle Beach, S.C. Staff writer Bob Asmussen caught up with the Illini regulars before they tee off:
Bryan Baumgarten Jr., Granite Bay, Calif.
You list Steve Stricker as your favorite Illini athlete. What do you like about him?"I think he embodies a lot of what the program is all about. He conducts himself like a true Illini off the course as well. Someone to look up to, for sure, and someone whose career I would love to have and hope to. Everyone's gone through struggles up and down, and he's one of those guys who found a way himself. He's fought through a lot of adversity. He's had an amazing career on Tour. There are a lot of qualities that he kind of gained through his competitive nature."
Adrien Dumont de Chassart Fr., Villers la Ville, Belgium
How did you end up at Illinois?"Thanks to Thomas Detry. Four years ago, we were playing in my home club in Belgium. He was still playing here. He explained to me what the program was, how good coach (Mike Small) was. Since I was 14, I've been wanting to come here. I got in touch with (Small) when I was 15. I didn't look at any other university. I knew it was going to be cold. The weather in Belgium is similar, not as cold as here. I'm having a good time. I'm not really homesick. I'm doing something I like here and I'm making good friends."
Varun Chopra So., Champaign
What are the pros and cons of being the local guy on the team?" Obviously, pros is my family's really close. I get to see them a lot. The support's there. And doing laundry and eating meals is just nice. Cons are probably the same thing. Sometimes, you want some distance maybe a bit, but overall it's a good thing. Over breaks, guys go home, and I just go down the street. I live about five minutes from here by the Champaign Country Club. I've always been close to my family. I looked at other schools that were not in Illinois, but I always wanted to stay home."
Michael Feagles Jr., Scottsdale, Ariz.
What did you think of Tiger Woods winning the Masters?"All nine of us were at our apartment from the minute he teed off until the last putt went in watching on Sunday. We watched every second of it. I loved it. I thought he would have a chance to win tournaments again, but I didn't think he'd win a major. To see that was the coolest thing ever. We saw the end of his run in majors, we were all like 10 years old. For most of our teenage years, he was done, he was out, he was hurt. To be able to experience him doing that is super cool. I think he's going to win another major this year. If I had to guess, I would say the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He's won there before. He likes that place."
Giovanni Tadiotto Jr., Anderlecht, Belgium
How did playing in tournaments last summer in Europe prepare you for this season?"Coach (Mike Small) tells us to keep playing as much as you can, so when we get back here, we still have that competitive spirit. We played all around in Europe because it's so small. I got to see lots of different golf courses and lots of different conditions. I played the British Amateur, and there was a lot of winds there. I'm ready to play a golf course with lots of wind and hard ground. When I come here and we get to the tournament and we have lots of wind, like we did the second round of the Big Ten, it actually helps because I've been there, and I know what I'm doing."