Illini Beat Defending Champ Texas, Face Cal in Semis
May 31, 2013
MILTON, Ga. - Charlie Danielson rolled in a 20-footer for par after a punch shot out of the woods on No. 18 to earn Illinois' second point of the day and Alex Burge clinched his match 3 & 2 by halving No. 16, giving the Illini a 3-2 win over defending NCAA champion Texas in the quarterfinals of NCAA match play at the par-70, 7,320-yard Capital City Club, Crabapple Course on Friday. In addition to wins by Danielson and Burge, Thomas Detry recorded the Illini's other match victory on the day. Detry and Burge never trailed in their matches, While Danielson led or was all square on 16 of 18 holes.
Illinois advances to face No. 1 seed California, which features NCAA individual champion Max Homa among three first-team All-Americans in its lineup, in Saturday's semifinal match with a 9 a.m. CT tee time. The other semifinal match will feature No. 2 seed Georgia Tech and No. 3 Alabama.
By winning its quarterfinal match, Illinois records the best team finish in school history, as it is guaranteed at least a tie for third. The previous best finish was a tie for fourth place in 1941. The Illini's best finish in the current format was a tie for fifth in 2011 when they lost their quarterfinal match to Georgia, 3-1-1.
"It's a personal statement," Illinois head coach Mike Small said of his team's victory. "We try to get better every day and see how good we can be at this game. Two years ago, we made match play and got beat by a good Gerogia team. That stung a little bit because we had some really good players on that team - Scott Langley and Luke Guthrie were on that team - and we didn't win it. It didn't make a lot of sense because we thought we were good and we were good.
"The statement this makes to us is that this is a program. We learn from the guys before us. These young guys have picked up where those guys left off. We've had a pretty successful year. We've had some ups and downs, but I think that's healthy for a young team. It's a pretty big statement when these kids can take some adversity throughout the year, turn it around and do this at the end of the season."
After notching a birdie on No. 17 to go 1-up on Texas' Toni Hakula, Danielson sent his tee shot on the 18th across the cart path and deep into the woods along the right side of the fairway. But he pitched to the fairway and knocked a wedge within 20 feet of the hole. Then Danielson calmly sank the long par putt, putting the pressure back onto Hakula, who was facing an eight-footer for birdie that could extend the match to a 19th hole. But the Longhorn ran the putt just past the hole, halving the hole and essentially clinching the match for the Illini.
That was because Burge had built a sizable lead in the fifth match, winning holes 2-4 against Texas senior Cody Gribble, who was ranked No. 17 nationally in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin individual ratings. They traded holes on Nos. 5 and 6, then halved their way to the turn. Burge won the 10th hole to go 4-up, but gave it back on the 11th for a 3-up margin. The pair then halved the next five holes to wrap up the match after 16, with Burge winning 3 & 2.
Freshman Thomas Detry was the first Illini to earn a point on the day, after battling with Longhorn senior Julio Vegas. Detry gained the first advantage, winning No. 3 to go 1-up. Vegas stuck his tee shot close to the pin on the par-3 6th and won that hole to pull the match back to all-squared. But Detry hit a hot streak on Nos. 8 and 9, winning both holes to make the turn 2-up. Vegas got a hole back on No. 10, then the pair battled through the final eight holes even, with Detry grabbing a 1-up victory over Vegas.
Junior Thomas Pieters was paired against the Longhorns' best player, freshman Brandon Stone, who was No. 2 in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Stone grabbed an early lead, winning holes 2 and 3, but Pieters got one back on No. 5. Stone quickly pushed his lead back to 2-up, though, with a win on No. 6. Pieters pulled back within one after a win on No. 8, but Stone once again rebounded with a hole win on 10 to get back to 2-up. Pieters once again cut the lead in half with a win on No. 12, but Stone took the 13th hole. Pieters pulled back within one thanks to a hole victory on No. 14, then the duo halved No. 15. But Stone won the 16th hole and Pieters missed a six-foot put on 17 that could have extended the match. Instead, Stone took the 2 & 1 victory.
In the No. 4 match, sophomore Brian Campbell won the first hole but gave it back on the second. He went ahead 1-up with another victory on No. 4, then added wins on Nos. 8 and 9 to make the turn at 3-up. But he faltered on Nos. 11 and 12, as Texas' Kramer Hickok battled back to within one. Campbell double-bogeyed No. 15 as the match was all-square with three to go, then Hickok won Nos. 16 and 17 to take the 2 & 1 victory.
#5 Illinois 3, #4 Texas 2