Last week, senior Lyle Burns was named Missouri Valley Conference Golfer of the Week for the third-straight week and a Bradley record for the fifth time in his career.
Now, Burns only has one tournament left in his collegiate golf career: the MVC tournament. His Braves career is coming to an end, but his path to Bradley and the success he has had while on the Hilltop has been special.
The accolades have been pouring in lately for Burns. Besides the five MVC Golfer of the Year honors, Burns also has four medalist honors, three of which came in the past three tournaments. He was named a First-Team MVC Scholar-Athlete last year, and he also shot 75 or lower in the past eight rounds.
“I’ve hit my stride recently,” Burns said. “I’m pleased with how this spring has gone and how my career is closing out.”
Burns said he started playing golf at a young age thanks to one of his current teammates, Garrett Cox.
“Garrett [Cox], who I’ve been friends with since kindergarten, he kind of got me into golf,” Burns said.
Burns always liked playing golf casually, but he said he didn’t start playing competitively until right before his freshman year of high school when he started competing in tournaments.
“That’s when I fell in love with golf,” Burns said. “I decided to not play football in high school and play golf instead. Obviously, it has been a great decision and has worked out for me.”
Cox joined Burns on the Mahomet-Seymour High School golf team, as well as former Bradley golfer Seth Trolia. The team won the state championship during Burns’ junior year, but Burns didn’t play in it. After that experience, Burns started to take golf more seriously.
“I was only an alternate so I didn’t get to play,” Burns said. “The team was losing some people, and I knew that I needed to get a lot better. Halfway through my senior year I realized that I was just starting to be decent and that I didn’t want to be done playing golf.”
Burns posted a 77.4 stroke average as a senior but didn’t get any collegiate offers out of high school. He decided to attend Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, which was only about ten minutes away from his hometown of Mahomet, Illinois, and was where his father was employed.
Going to Parkland worked out well for Burns, as he said he was able to develop his golf game and even gain some prestige. As a freshman at Parkland, he was named first-team all conference and qualified for the 2013 National Junior College Athletic Association National (NJCAA) Championship.
As a sophomore, Burns was selected as first-team all region and was an honorable mention for the NJCAA Division II All-American team. After that season, Burns decided to transfer to Bradley.
“I had played well enough at Parkland that I thought I was good enough to play Division I,” Burns said. “I was looking at mid-major Division I schools. I wanted to stay in Illinois. I didn’t want to be far from my family and Peoria was pretty close. I took a visit and loved the campus and facilities. It was an easy decision for me to become a Brave.”
Having his old friends and high school teammates on the golf team was a big draw for Burns.
“It’s been so much fun to continue playing with him,” Burns said. “It’s sad that this is our senior year, and we’re not gonna have that opportunity anymore. Being able to play with Garrett [Cox] and last year with Seth [Trolia] probably means more to me than any win I’ve had.”
Division I competition took some getting used to for Burns.
“At junior college tournaments, I could show up and know I was one of the best golfers out there,’ Burns said. “Now, I show up and there’s so many people of my calibur and that are better than me.”
With all of the recent success that Burns has had, it is safe to say that he’s made the proper adjustments. With only one tournament left in his collegiate career, Burns said he is playing some of the best golf he’s ever played and has a specific goal for ending his career.
“I want to go out by winning a championship,” Burns said. “We have the talent. And if I go out there and play my best and limit my mistakes, I know I can win it individually. It would be really cool to win both, but the team championship would be the best way to go out.”
After Bradley, Burns plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and seek a Master’s degree in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration. He said aims to become an athletic administrator and work with college students and organizations. However, Burns said he will never forget the time he’s had at Bradley.
“I’ve loved my time at Bradley,” Burns said. “I love being in Peoria, and coming here has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”