WCIA — Illinois has been at this stage before, 13 times in a row to be exact. But when graduate senior Michael Feagles was at the NCAA Championships three times before, it wasn’t like this.
“It’ll be bittersweet for me, it’s been full-circle for sure,” says Feagles.
The returning senior came to Illinois from Scottsdale, Arizona, where the tournament starts Friday at Grayhawk Golf Club. A course right around the corner from home.
“My high school teams practice out there,” says Feagles. “I’ve just been out there a bunch.”
“He’s helped us with some stuff talking about golf in June in Scottsdale and Phoenix,” says head coach Mike Small. “I’ve never played golf in June in Phoenix before. It’s hot, it’s dry. He’s helped us with that.”
Feagles has been named a Big Ten First Teamer an unprecedented five times for the Orange and Blue. He also led the conference with the best stroke average this season. Even though Feagles will be going home and have his family in attendance, COVID protocols mean it won’t be your usual homecoming.
“We kind of just give them salutes and ‘Hi’s and ‘Bye’s and that’s it,” says Feagles. “We don’t see them outside the golf course at all. That can be challenging, but we’re chasing something bigger.”
The Illini have only finished as high as third in Feagles time, back in 2017. This time around the senior has his sights set on what could be the perfect ending to his amateur career before turning pro.
“To kind of have the bookend to be in Scottsdale, would make it the best end of the story possible.”
The Illini will need to pull the upset if they want their first team title ever. They go into the final week of the season 11th in the coaches poll.