Before he took the mound Thursday at Wrigley Field for a ceremonial first pitch, Luke Donald predicted he would feel some pressure.
"I grew up playing cricket," Donald said, "where you wanted to bounce it in."
The Englishman attended the Cubs-Phillies game to help promote this month's NCAA golf championships at Rich Harvest Farms in west suburban Sugar Grove. Donald won the individual title for Northwestern in 1999, saying it "catapulted" a career in which he rose to No. 1 in the world rankings.
Northwestern is slightly better than 50-50 to make the 30-team field. The Wildcats are the No. 5 seed in the Baton Rouge, La., regional, where they need to finish in the top five.
"We're inside the bubble number," NU director of golf Pat Goss joked.
Illinois, meanwhile, is the No. 2 seed in the West Lafayette, Ind., regional behind Florida. The regionals will be played May 15-17.
"Good for us to be able to drive," coach Mike Small said of the geographical edge. "And we know the course a little."
The Illini are coming off their third straight Big Ten championship and eighth in the last nine years. And they did it in dominant fashion, beating second-place Northwestern by 16 shots at Baltimore Country Club.
Both Illinois and Northwestern are thirsting to reach the NCAAs at Rich Harvest for a semi-home game. Northern Illinois is the host school for the May 26-31 event, though the Huskies did not get a spot in the regionals. The women's regional fields were revealed last week, with the championship scheduled for May 19-24, also at Rich Harvest.
"I know if we get there, there will be a lot of orange and blue," said Small, whose team reached the NCAA semifinals the last two years.
Said Goss: "We're a proud Chicago school, and I'm a proud Chicago-area guy. This year more than any year, we want to be playing."
This article is written by Teddy Greenstein from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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