The Fighting Illini finished second in the country after losing the NCAA championship match to Alabama, 4-1, on Sunday.
June 2, 2013
MILTON, Ga. - Illinois was up or all square in three of the five matches coming down the stretch, but Alabama senior Scott Strohmeyer won holes 14-16 to defeat Illini sophomore Brian Campbell 3 and 2 and give Alabama a 4-1 team victory. Junior Thomas Pieters was the Illini's lone victory, as he was ahead 1-up when the Tide clinched the deciding team points.
The Illini finish second at the NCAA Championships at the par-70, 7,320-yard Capital City Club Crabapple Course, the highest finish in program history, besting the 1941 team's tie for fourth place. It also is the highest finish by a northern school at the NCAA Championships since Minnesota won the 2002 NCAA title.
"You could tell Alabama had an edge to them today," Illinois head coach Mike Small said. "They went through this last year. Going through this once and not winning is a powerful feeling when you group that together and come back this year. You could tell they had their mind made up it was going to get done. We were up against the best today. Jay (Seawell) does a great job. I have so much respect for him. I knew it was going to be tough, especially after yesterday, the high yesterday. You talk about it in sports: you beat somebody and it's tough to keep doing it again and again and again."
The Illini got off to a rocky start as freshman Thomas Detry, playing the first match against Bobby Wyatt, who was No. 3 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, lost the first seven holes he played. He got holes back on No. 9 and No. 11, but Wyatt holed out on a flop shot on No. 13 for birdie to win the match 6 and 5.
Sophomore Charlie Danielson had a very tense match against Trey Mullinax, as Danielson grabbed a lead with a win on No. 1 but the Tide junior got it back on No. 2. The pair played all square through five holes before Mullinax pulled ahead when Danielson bogeyed No. 6. The Illini rookie pulled even on No. 9 as Mullinax bogeyed the hole, but the Tide player pulled back ahead with a win on No. 12. Danielson squared the match once more on No. 13 as he sank a par putt and Mullinax bogeyed the hole. The pair matched shot for shot over the next four holes leading up to No. 18. Danielson had a seven-footer for par that wouldn't go down and Mullinax sank a three-footer to win, 1-up.
"I'm just really proud of my teammates," Pieters said. "I don't think a lot of people expected us to be in the national championship. We thought we could do it. We all played so hard and played for each other. It's a shame we didn't get it today, but Alabama played really well today. I'm a little disappointed, obviously, but I'm really happy I got the chance to play at Illinois. It's not fun, obviously, but we all played really hard. Alabama played really well, hats off to them."
As Danielson was finishing, Burge's match finished with Alabama's Cory Whitsett taking a 4 and 3 victory. Whitsett won No. 2 and added victories on Nos. 6-9 to go 5-up at the turn. But Burge battled back, winning the next two holes to pull within 3-up. The pair halved 12 and 13 but Whitsett pushed the margin back to 4-up when Burge bogeyed No. 14, then the halved No. 15 to end the match with the Tide junior taking a 4 and 3 win.
Campbell went back-and-forth with Strohmeyer all day, halving the first three holes before the Tide senior won No. 4. Campbell won No. 6 when Strohmeyer bogeyed the hole, then they halved the next four holes. Campbell took his first lead of the day when he birdied No. 11, but Strohmeyer birdied No. 12 to bring the match all square. They halved No. 13, then Strohmeyer got hot, winning the next three holes to win the match, 3 and 2.
Pieters led most of the day against Thomas, but never by much. He won No. 1 but lost No. 2 to go all square. But Pieters won No. 3 when Thomas bogeyed the hole. The duo halved the next four holes and Pieters added a hole to his lead when Thomas bogeyed No. 8. But Pieters bogeyed No. 9 to hold a 1-up lead at the turn. Pieters extended his lead back to 2-up by winning No. 11, but Thomas got the hole back with a win on No. 13. They halved No. 14 then Thomas pulled all square when Pieters bogeyed the par-3 15th. But Pieters won No. 16 and was awarded the victory as he was walking down the 18th fairway when the team score was decided by Campbell's and Burge's match losses.
#3 Alabama 4, #5 Illinois 1
Bobby Wyatt (UA) def. Thomas Detry (ILL), 6 & 5
Trey Mullinax (UA) def. Charlie Danielson (ILL), 1-up
Thomas Pieters (ILL) def. Justin Thomas (UA), 1-up
Scott Strohmeyer (UA) def. Brian Campbell (ILL), 3 & 2
Cory Whitsett (UA), def. Alex Burge (ILL), 4 & 3
A complete recap will be available later today.