Nick Hardy called Mike Small on Thursday afternoon to give his verbal commitment to the Illinois men’s golf team.
Led by Small, a record five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and playing veteran of 11 professional major championships, the Illini are one of the top programs in the country. Illinois won two tournaments during the fall season and is ranked 18th by Golfweek and 19th in the Golf World/Nikes Coaches poll.
“I liked Illinois from the start,” said Hardy, a junior who first visited Champaign in February and again Wednesday before ending his recruitment. “What pushed me through definitely was coach Small and Illinois giving me the best chance of becoming a better golfer and better student.
“I’m really proud and excited to say I am going to Illinois.”
Hardy tied for ninth at this season’s Class 3A tournament to lead the Spartans to fourth place as a team. He tied for 14th in the state as a freshman.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Glenbrook North coach Justin Gerbich, who had two seniors this year — Nick Jan (Ohio State) and Jon Goldstein (DePaul) — sign a National Letter of Intent to play golf in college. “I have gotten to talk to Mike Small a lot, and he’s a sharp guy. He’s developed a great program.
“Illinois is getting an awesome player, and I think Nick will do well there.”
Illinois has won four consecutive conference championships and produced two of the last three individual national champions. The Illini are one of six programs to have played in five NCAA championships in a row.
“Now, I can worry about getting better and not worry about which school I am going to,” said Hardy, who will play at the Jones Cup Junior Invitational on Dec. 21-23 at the Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia. “I am very excited about my decision, and I know it’s the right one for me.”