NORMAL — Advancing to last year's NCAA Men's Golf Regional as a freshman wasn't the proof that Illinois State's Trent Wallace needed to show he belonged on a big stage.
That happened a couple months earlier.
In the Tinervin Cup at Coral Creek Club in Placida, Fla. — an annual competition between ISU and Illinois sponsored by Bloomington's Jeff and Madalyn Tinervin — Wallace faced Illini All-American Charlie Danielson in a singles match.
Wallace came away with ISU's only win — and so much more.
"Beating a player like Danielson is definitely a big accomplishment," said Wallace. "He was ranked sixth in the nation at the time, and we know Illinois is full of guys like that. Being able to beat him and show myself that I could play with him was a huge confidence booster."
Wallace's confidence has continued to grow. He earned medalist honors for the second straight year in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship a couple weeks ago at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club's "Dubsdread" course.
That gave Wallace a spot in the NCAA West Lafayette (Ind.) Regional from Monday to May 17 at Purdue's Kampen Course.
ISU coach Ray Kralis said Wallace's win over Danielson was a "David vs. Goliath situation" in which the 5-foot-6, 150-pound Wallace prevailed.
"He loves those moments," said Kralis. "It's partly attitude. He's been around a golf course since he was just a young boy. He's in his element out there."
Wallace tied for 55th place in last year's regional at Blackwolf Run's Meadow Valleys Course. He shot even-par 72 in the first round before ballooning to 78 the next day and then finishing with a 74.
Kralis believes that experience should help Wallace this time around. Wallace agrees.
"I learned a lot from the regional last year," he said. "The level of play there is obviously very high. My biggest takeway is I've got to bring my 'A' game if I want to move on."
Only the low individual not on an advancing team moves on to the NCAA Championships. While that makes it difficult, Wallace doesn't mind.
Because of his size, many have underestimated the Joliet West High School graduate in the past. Kralis credits Wallace with having a solid game off the tee and being "fantastic" with his wedges and putter.
"He's one guy who's not caught up in how his swing works," said Kralis. "He doesn't want to see video and isn't a lesson taker kind of guy. He knows how to get the ball in the hole and knows what he does to accomplish that and doesn't try to overcomplicate it."
When asked if he has a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude because many have underestimated him, Wallace's reply of "not really" failed to sound convincing.
"I make up for it in consistency. That's bigger than anything," he said before adding after a long pause, "I'm still able to get the ball out there with them, too."
Wallace believes he has matured in the last year. He proved that in the MVC Championships when he opened with a 2-under par 70 and went on to post a wire-to-wire victory in the 54-hole event.
"I used to hit driver everywhere. In conference I prob hit driver eight times around (each round). That's not a lot for me," he said. "I feel I manage my game a lot better and manage my compsoure. I've learned showing your emotions don't do any good."
Kralis said many Division I coaches "enamored with the tall, lanky builds and guys who look like they're athletes and can play any sport" probably overlooked Wallace.
The ISU coach is glad that happened.
"I remember recruiting Trent and watching his ball control," said Kralis. "It was the first time ever in recruiting I watched a guy hit a flagstick with a shot from the middle of the fairway.
"You watch him play more and you got the sense he might do that more often than once."