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Texas, Illinois going young at Olympia Fields

Texas and Illinois will open their respective seasons Friday at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational – and they will each do it with three freshmen in the lineup.

The Longhorns, ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek preseason rankings, will start true freshmen Scottie Scheffler, Doug Ghim and Taylor Funk in the 54-hole event at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club. Freshmen Nick Hardy, Dylan Meyer and Spencer Reed will make their collegiate debuts for the fourth-ranked Illini.

“They are excited and enthused to play their first tournament for Texas,” Texas head coach John Fields said. “It will be a great experience for them.”

Said Illinois head coach Mike Small: “I guarantee you one thing – they will learn a lot. . . . What a better time to start (three freshmen) than right now?”

The Longhorns will be without sophomore Beau Hossler, who is competing in the World Amateur Team Championship. Sophomore Gavin Hall and senior Brax McCarthy will be Texas’ other two starters.

Illinois will also be missing a player because of the WATC – junior Thomas Detry. Senior Brian Campbell and junior Charlie Danielson round out the Illini’s lineup at Olympia Fields.

Other teams in the field include two-time defending national champion Alabama, which is also the defending tournament champion; Oklahoma State, last year’s national runner-up; Stanford, which won its season opener at the Southwestern Intercollegiate; and Baylor, which was victorious at the Gopher Invitational in head coach Mike McGraw’s debut.

Oklahoma, Florida State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana and Michigan round out the 15-team field.

The Crimson Tide used an early-season victory at Olympia Fields a year ago to jumpstart a 2013-14 campaign that ended in a second straight national title. With another strong field again this year, the winner will likely be contending for a national crown this spring.

Texas, like its 14 competitors this week, is hoping to be that team.

“Olympia Fields is a great golf course and we’re hoping for a tremendous result,” Fields said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for us (entering this event). . . . It will be a different feel for us this year in that in every tournament, we’ll have a chance to win.”

Here are some other notes entering the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational:

  • In addition to Hossler (U.S) and Detry (Belgium), three other players are skipping Olympia Fields to compete in the World Amateur Team Championship: Alabama’s Gavin Moynihan (Ireland), and Arkansas’ Nicolas Echavarria (Colombia) and Alvaro Ortiz (Mexico).
  • Oklahoma State, ranked second in the Golfweek preseason rankings, is coming off an eighth-place showing at the Carmel Cup. Arkansas was seventh at Pebble Beach and Oklahoma was T-4.
  • Stanford sophomore Maverick McNealy is coming off the first victory of his collegiate career at the Southwestern Intercollegiate.

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