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Illini coach may withdraw from U.S. Open qualifier

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MILTON, Ga. – Illinois coach Mike Small may now have an unexpected conflict.

Small, a three-time winner of the Professional National Championship, is scheduled to play the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in St. Louis on Monday.

That appearance may be in jeopardy, however, now that the Illini have advanced to the finals of the NCAA men’s Championship at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course. They will face second-ranked Alabama on Sunday.

“I’m still planning on playing, but things may change,” Small said. “I’ll discuss it tonight. I’m hurting. Standing for six days and competing in my mind, it’s stressful.”

Small said he likely would decide Saturday night whether to tee it up at the 36-hole qualifier that could earn him a berth in the U.S. Open at Merion.

Working in Small’s favor: Tee times for Sunday’s 18-hole team final were moved up two hours in anticipation of afternoon thunderstorms. The first match is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

If Small doesn’t play, he’ll still have a rooting interest in two of his players: Sophomore Alex Burge is scheduled to play in St. Louis, while junior Thomas Pieters will try his luck in Springfield, Ohio.