Illinois is the best team in the Big Ten and the Fighting Illini, No. 9 in the latest Golfstat rankings, played like it in the opening round of the conference championship at Baltimore Country Club’s Five Farms East Course Friday.
Illinois, with Dylan Meyer, a junior from Evansville, Ind., shooting a course-record and Big Ten Championship record 7-under 63 over the 7,181-yard, par-70 Five Farms layout, carded an impressive 11-under 269 team score.
That gave the Illini a 14-shot lead over No. 60 Ohio State, which posted a 3-over 283. No. 38 Purdue is another shot back in third at 4-over 284, No. 32 Northwestern is fourth at 6-over 286 and No. 50 Penn State snuck into the top five with a strong finish on the back nine and is 7-over 287.
Meyer was coming off a five-shot victory in last weekend’s Kepler Invitational on the challenging Scarlet Course at Ohio State and an eagle on the par-4 16th capped a typically outstanding round for a player Golfstat ranks as the 11th-best in Division I.
Backing up Meyer was fellow junior standout Nick Hardy of Northbrook, Ill., who is four shots behind his teammate in third place at 3-under 67. Edoardo Lipparelli, a sophomore from Italy, is in a group of five players tied for fourth at 1-under 69.
Also for Illinois, Giovanni Tadiotto, a freshman from Belgium, is tied for ninth at even-par 70 and Michael Feagles, a freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., is tied for 42nd with a 75.
Minnesota’s Thomas Longbella, a freshman from Chippewa Falls, Wis., fired a 4-under 66 and is alone in second, three shots behind Meyer.
Joining Lipparelli in the logjam at 1-under 69 are the Ohio State duo of Will Grimmer, a sophomore from Cincinnati, and Caleb Ramirez, a sophomore from Blythe, Calif., Northwestern’s Ryan Lumsden, a sophomore from England, and Purdue’s Brian Carlson, a junior from Madison, Conn.
Penn State has had a strong spring and finished fourth in the Kepler. The Nittany Lions are missing sophomore Ryan Dornes, a former Manheim Township standout who fractured his hand. They received a bid to the NCAA regionals a year ago despite a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten Championship. They would like to improve on that finish and they got off to a good start toward that goal Friday.
Penn State was led by junior Cole Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout and the reigning Pennsylvania Amateur champion. Miller matched par with a 70 and is in a large group of players tied for ninth.
Charles Huntzinger, a sophomore from Duluth, Ga., is another shot behind Miller in a tie for 16th at 1-over 71.
Ryan Davis, a freshman from Berkeley Heights, N.J., and sophomore JD Hughes, a Carlisle product, are in the group tied for 28th at 3-over 73. Davis has had an outstanding freshman season while Hughes, promoted to the starting lineup in the aftermath of Dornes’ injury, led the way for the Lions at the Kepler, finishing tied for 14th on the tough Scarlet Course.
Rounding out the Penn State contingent, Christian Elliott, a senior from Canada, is tied for 67th after posting an 80.