CHICAGO (CBS) — The University of Illinois Men’s Golf Team was shooting for their 11th Big Ten Championship in the last 12 years, but then the season abruptly ended because of the coronavirus.
The Illini team was ranked number one in the conference with only a few weeks left to play in the season.READ MORE: 1 Person Dead, Another Injured In 4 Car Crash In Waukegan
And now, head coach Mike Small would be working on his own game to prepare for tournaments on the Senior Tour this summer, but that is in limbo as well. Small told CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke the disappointment of the season ending and not being able to golf these last few months has been extremely tough on everyone.
“We’re climbing the walls down here, believe it or not. I live on a golf course, so to look up every day and see it and not be able to play was always tough,” Small said, “and then obviously, that’s your livelihood. It’s something you want to do. It’s something you want to just keep learning and exploring and playing, and we were hog-tied. We couldn’t do anything.”
Most difficult, Small said, was how everything came screeching to a halt.
“The abruptness of it. The quickness of just shutting it down is just still what lingers, I guess, because you never could prepare for something like that, and we were making strides, and to see those guys just leave in one or two days – just be told to get out, disperse, go home – that’s tough, because you put all that time and effort on it. You’re talking every day, and planning on it, formulating – what the season’s going to be like and visualizing all the success – and then poof, it’s gone in one minute,” he said.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Slightly Warmer Temperatures Before Cold Returns
Small said he was relieved to hear college seniors at Illinois could come back for an extra year if they would like to.
“I was relieved just because it gave the kids the opportunity to decide,” Small said. “Not all schools are doing that, but hats off to Illinois and the way we support our student athletes. They stepped up right away, and agreed that these seniors at least had the right to choose if they want to come back and finish off their senior year like they had planned for four years to do,” he said.
While safety comes first during the pandemic, golf is one sport where the athletes are spaced out by design. The PGA has hoped to pick up, and Small hopes the same might happen for college golfers.
“I think people aren’t sure about his pandemic and the coronavirus, and really how it’s going to turn out, and people are overly cautious. I get that. That’s the first and foremost thing that we have to look out for. But if you’re looking for social distancing, golf is the perfect sport for that, and I think tournaments are a little scared to experiment with this during a tournament, but I think once people get the hang of the golf, and once the courses open up and they and they can see that, you know, you can be easily 6 to 10 feet away from your playing partners, and also you’re 200 yards away from the next group, I think golf can be played very safely,” Small said.MORE NEWS: Woman, 2 Children In Hospital After Building Fire In Homan Square
The Illinois golf team had three seniors. One is turning pro and the other two opted to come back to the U of I, so they should be stacked against next year.