Luke Guthrie isn’t going to be nervous.
None of the University of Illinois golfers will be.
Guthrie and the Illini head to Windsong Farm Golf Club in Blaine, Minn., this weekend looking to defend the Big Ten Conference championship they won a year ago. Illinois has won three of its last four tournaments and is looking to repeat as Big Ten champion for the first time since winning back-to-back conference titles in 1940-41.
Last year was Illinois’ first title since 1988.
“There’s no pressure,” said Guthrie, the Quincy native who is a sophomore at Illinois and ranks third on the team in stroke average at 72.87. “We just have to go play our game and do our job.”
That’s easier to do with Guthrie fully comfortable.
“I can be a little more calm,” said Guthrie, who finished ninth individually with a 6-over 290 total at last year’s conference championship. “I can use that to my advantage.”
Guthrie heads into the weekend — two rounds will be played Friday and one round each on Saturday and Sunday — third on the team with seven rounds under and four rounds of even par. He has finished as the Illini’s second scorer three times and third scorer four times in 10 tournaments.
His stroke average currently ranks among the top 10 in school history.
Still, he knows it could be better.
“The scores aren’t quite as good as I want,” Guthrie said. “But they aren’t representative of how I’m hitting the ball. It’s a matter of time before that comes along and the scores reflect how I’m playing.”
Guthrie is confident in his game, maybe as confident as he’s ever been.
“I feel like I can hit any shot in the book,” he said.
He just needs a few breaks to go his way, possibly with the putter.
“My putting is fine,” he said. “The putts are coming off like I want them to. They just aren’t falling. They’ll start falling.”
Now would be the perfect time. Following the Big Ten Championships, the 11th-ranked Illini will prepare for the NCAA Regionals and hopefully a spot in the NCAA Championships.
“It’s a five-week season,” Guthrie said. “It’s time to just perform.”
Expect him to perform well.
To track the progress of Guthrie and the Illini, check out golfstatresults.com for live scoring.