Freshman Brian Campbell and the Illini will compete at the NCAA Norman Regional from May 17-19.
May 15, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. - The Illinois men's golf team will tee it up at a regional for the fifth consecutive season when it plays at the NCAA Norman Regional from May 17-19. The 54-hole event will be held at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club and includes 18 holes each day beginning at 8 a.m. CT. The low five teams and top individual not on a qualifying team will advance to the NCAA Finals, May 29-June 3, in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The Illini are one of just eight schools to qualify for the finals each of the past four years along with Arizona State, Florida, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC.
"It would be another feather in our cap and show that we are becoming a program and not just a team if we can make it to the finals again," head coach Mike Small said. "This is a chance to go play at a well-known university golf course against a really good field. We are going to approach it like any other tournament and go in to try and win it. The format shows how college golf is such a team sport, so we will have to play hard from start to finish and take everything on as it comes."
The No. 32 Illini, who earned the conference's automatic bid following their fourth-straight Big Ten Championship, are seeded seventh in a loaded 14-team field featuring seven squads in the Top 35 of the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. No. 1 Texas is the top seed followed by No. 9 Georgia Tech, No. 13 Washington, No. 24 Florida State, No. 30 Oklahoma and No. 34 Saint Mary's. The other seven schools slated to compete on the par-72, 7,387-yard Perry Maxwell-designed course are Middle Tennessee, South Carolina, San Diego, Arizona, Sacramento State, IUPUI and Loyola Chicago along with five individual competitors.
The Illini lineup will be the same from each of its last three tournaments, where they placed in the top four at each. Senior Luke Guthrie, redshirt junior Mason Jacobs and sophomore Thomas Pieters played in last year's regional and each finished in the top 16. Freshmen Alex Burge and Brian Campbell, who will fill the other two spots left from last year's lineup by All-Americans Scott Langley and Chris DeForest, will compete at a regional for the first time.
Guthrie, who is ranked 11th nationally, tied for first at last year's NCAA Regional, which marked his third consecutive individual title at the time. He won the final regular season event at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate followed by his first Big Ten title before capturing the regional crown in 2011. The Quincy, Ill., native will look to complete the same circuit this time around in Oklahoma. Guthrie is coming off back-to-back wins at Illinois' last two tournaments, including the final regular season event at the Boilermaker Invitational and repeat medalist honors at the Big Ten Championships.
"This is an exciting time, and we are looking forward to lay it on the line this weekend," Guthrie said. "We are playing well as a team right now, and this is what we have been working toward all year."
Last season, Illinois placed second in the regional at Wolf Run Golf Club to advance to the NCAA Championship for the fourth-straight season. The Illini then turned in the program's best finish since 1941 at the NCAA Finals, tying for fifth after reaching the match play round for the first time in school history.
NCAA Norman Regional Field (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking)
1. Texas (1)
2. Georgia Tech (9)
3. Washington (13)
4. Florida State (24)
5. Oklahoma (30)
6. St. Mary's (Calif.) (34)
7. Illinois (32)
8. Middle Tennessee (47)
9. South Carolina (53)
10. San Diego (61)
11. Arizona (60)
12. Sacramento State (84)
13. Indiana/Purdue-Indianapolis (113)
14. Loyola Chicago (220)
1. Martin Simonsen, UTEP
2. Kevin Lucas, Nevada
3. Mitchell McLeroy, Stephen F. Austin
4. Scott Willman, Nebraska
5. Alfred Kerstis, UALR