Fighting Illini Out Front in Central Regional

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Courtesy of fightingillini.ocsn.com
 
College CentralMANHATTAN, Kan. - The Fighting Illini men's golf team stormed out of the gate today with a fantastic performance to take the lead during the first round of the 2003 NCAA Central Regional Championships, held at the par 72, 7,228-yard Colbert Hills golf course in Manhattan, Kan. The Illini blistered the course with the second-lowest team score in school history, an amazing 13-under par tally of 275, to take over first place in the 27-team Regional, which features four of the Top 10-ranked teams in the country. Illinois, ranked No. 21 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, owns a two-shot lead over Southern Methodist (277). Kentucky is in third place, five strokes behind the Illini at 280.
 
Illinois' 275 score is just two strokes shy of the school record 273 that the Illini shot earlier this spring at the Marshall Invitational. However, Illinois' score today is actually more impressive than the record 273, since that score was recorded on a par-71 course where the team finished 11 strokes below par for the round, compared to today's score of 13 shots under par.
 
Leading the way for the Illini were Big Ten Player of the Year James Lepp and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Patrick Nagle. The UI teammates each recorded 5-under par rounds of 67 and are tied for second place out of the field of 141 golfers. Lepp and Nagle are just one stroke behind tournament leader Jason Moon of North Carolina State, who shot a 6-under 66.
 
Lepp carded three birdies on the front nine at holes 1, 6 and 7. He tallied his only bogey of the round on No. 11 but quickly bounced back with a birdie at 12. The sophomore finished the day with consecutive birdies on holes 16 and 17 for his round of 67. This marks Lepp's 16th round under par and his 13th round in the 60s this season.
 
Nagle was 4-under par through 10 holes but fell to -2 after bogeys at No. 11 and 13. He rallied however, making three straight birdies at holes 14-through-16 to get to -5 and finish with a 67. This is Nagle's 12th round under par and his eighth round in the 60s this year.
 
Illinois also received a big lift from its lone senior, Geoff Lound. Lound carded a 3-under par score of 69, his lowest round of the spring. He played steady all day, tallying five birdies and just two bogeys. Lound is tied for 14th individually.
 
The Illini's fourth scorer was sophomore Garrett Chaussard, who shot even-par 72 and is tied for 44th place. Rounding out the action for Illinois, junior Ryan Tendall shot a 3-over 75.
 
'We played fantastic golf today, as our scores indicate,' said Illini Head Coach Mike Small. 'This is what our guys have been preparing for, and they were focused and on their game today. The intensity and pressure goes up another level during the postseason, and I was impressed with how well they responded. But this was just the first round. They know that the challenge now is to keep the momentum going into this weekend. There is still a lot of golf left to play, but this is a great start.'
 
The second round of the 54-hole NCAA Central Regional will be held tomorrow, with Illinois players scheduled to tee-off beginning at 8 a.m. The third and final round is set for Saturday. Fans can follow the action via the internet with live scoring at: www.golfstat.com The top 10 finishing teams and top two individuals not among the top 10 teams will qualify for the NCAA Championships, to be held May 27-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
 
NCAA Central Regional Team Standings (after first of three rounds)
 
1. ILLINOIS 275 -13
2. Southern Methodist 277 -11
3. Kentucky 280 -8
T4. North Carolina 283 -5
T4. North Carolina State 283 -5
T6. Oklahoma State 285 -3
T6. North Texas 285 -3
T6. Texas 285 -3
T6. Lamar 285 -3
10. Arkansas 286 -2
T11. Minnesota 287 -1
T11. Kansas State 287 -1
T11. Texas Christian 287 -1
T11. Northwestern 287 -1
T15. Baylor 289 +1
T15. Michigan State 289 +1
17. Wichita State 290 +2
T18. Tulsa 291 +3
T18. Kent State 291 +3
20. Oklahoma 292 +4
21. Ohio State 293 +5
T22. Toledo 295 +7
T22. Kansas 295 +7
T24. Texas A&M 296 +8
T24. Texas Tech 296 +8
26. Wright State 297 +9
27. Missouri 298 +10
 
Illinois Results (after first of three rounds)