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Illini Legends Lists and Lore: 1988 Big Ten men’s golf championship | Sports

On this day in University of Illinois men’s golf history, Coach Ed Beard’s Illini breezed to the school’s first Big Ten team title in 47 years, outdistancing runner-up Ohio State by 20 strokes.

The victory at Savoy’s 6,596-yard Orange Course snapped a streak of six consecutive first-place finishes by Ohio State. Illinois’ team win capped a sensational improvement from last place just three seasons earlier in 1985.

The Illini quintet of seniors Mike Small and Don Edwards, junior Steve Stricker and sophomores Kevin Fairfield and Heath Crawford overwhelmed a Buckeye squad that was led by Chris Smith and Anthony Adams.

Stricker’s four-round, nine-under-par total of 279 won medalist honors and included a round of 69 and three of 70 strokes. He was 14 shots better than Smith and teammate Small.

The final day of competition was made much more difficult by extremely windy conditions.

“I remember the wind blowing over tents,” Beard said. “Steve and Mike both played the last nine holes in a gale, but we were used to it.”

Small agreed with his coach, saying “I think the wind got to other teams and really messed them up.”

Illinois, which last won the Big Ten championship in 1940 and ’41, collected its seventh team title altogether.

Catching up with Illinois’ five 1988 championship team members:

Steve Stricker:

  • The Edgerton, Wis. native has enjoyed a sensational professional career, winning a dozen PGA Tour titles among his 30 victories. Stricker has five top-five finishes in major championships, placing second at the 1998 PGA, fourth at the 2016 British Open, fifth at the US Open in both 1998 and ’99, and sixth at the 2009 Masters Tournament. He served as captain of the US Ryder Cup Team, leading the team to victory in his home state.

MIKE SMALL:

  • The four-time letterwinner from Danville, he’s been the Illini’s head coach since the 2000-01 season. He’s led Illinois to 12 Big Ten titles, including the last seven in a row. Small, a record 12-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, has continued to be an exceptional player, winning the PGA of America title three times, the Illinois Open four times, and the Illinois PGA title 13 times.

DON EDWARDS: The former UI trustee founded Flexpoint Ford in 2005, a private equity investment firm. In 2020, he and his wife, Anne

  • pledged a $10 million gift to their alma mater, with funds divided between the Gies College of Business, the Discovery Partners Institute, the Ubben Basketball Complex and the Illini golf program

HEATH CRAWFORD:

  • After gaining his degree from Illinois in mechanical engineering, Crawford continued his education at Purdue, securing a Master’s degree in operations management and supervision. His career has taken him to Maryland, Kentucky and Tennessee. He is now an operational excellence change agent for Ingersoll Rand in Clarksville, Tenn.

KEVIN FAIRFIELD:

  • An Illini letterwinner from 1987-90, Fairfield was his senior team’s top performer, averaging 74.1 strokes per round and being named to the All-Big Ten squad. In April of 2001, he died at the age of 33 following a bout with cancer.

Ilini Birthdays

Sunday: Morgan O’Brien, volleyball

Monday: Art Sitkowski, football (22)

Tuesday: Steve Green, football (68)

Wednesday: Kevin Anderson, tennis (36)

Thursday: Randy Rodgers, football (75)

Friday: Marc Jackson, football (41)

Saturday: Ed O’Bradovich, football (82)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @IlliniLegends and @Spartifacts2022. His website for him is www.SportsLLL.com.

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