Freshman Alex Burge and the Illini will compete at the NCAA Championships from May 29-June 3 at the Riviera Country Club.
May 24, 2012
How They Got Here: Norman Regional Recap
For the fifth year in a row, the Illinois men's golf team qualified for the NCAA Championships after tying for third at the NCAA Norman Regional behind three top-10 individual performances. The Illini maintained their position in the top five and moved up a spot with a final round 296 to tie with No. 24 Florida State at 871 (+7). The Illini, who were seeded seventh entering the regional, finished behind only No. 1 Texas (E) and regional champion No. 13 Washington (-4) at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. Individually, sophomore Thomas Pieters (2nd), senior Luke Guthrie (T-7th) and freshman Brian Campbell (T-10th) finished in the top 10.
Longest Active Streaks of NCAA Final Appearances
Illinois is one of just six schools to advance to the NCAA Finals each of the past five seasons. The Illini are tied with Texas A&M for the fifth-longest active streak with five consecutive appearances, which checks in behind Florida (12), UCLA (10), USC (6) and Texas (6). Illinois rates as the only northern school in the elite group.
NCAA Seeding, Tee Times and Format
Illinois, which will compete at the NCAA Championships for the 20th time in school history, was seeded 24th and paired with No. 22 Oklahoma and No. 23 East Carolina for the first two rounds of the championship. The Illini will tee off during the morning wave of the first round beginning at 7:50 a.m. (PST) on Tuesday, May 29. During round two, the Orange and Blue will hit the links during the afternoon wave beginning at 1:10 p.m. (PST). Third round pairings for Thursday, May 31 will be based on scores after round two. The individual champion from the field of 156 participants (30 teams of five plus six individuals) will be crowned following the 54-hole event. The top eight teams will then advance to a match play bracket (school head-to-head) to determine the team champion. Quarterfinal matches on Friday, June 1 will feature #1 vs. #8 (10 a.m.), #4 vs. #5 (10:45 a.m.), #2 vs. #7 (11:30 a.m.) and #3 vs. #6 (12:15 p.m.). Semifinal matches will be held on Saturday, June 2 at 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., while the championship match is slated for Sunday, June 3 at 10 a.m. (PST).
The Venue - The Riviera Country Club | Course Map
Opened in 1927, the Riviera Country Club's George Thomas-designed golf course has served as the venue for championship golf in Southern California since its inception. Riviera has primarily served as the host for the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open (formerly Los Angeles Open), while also hosting the U.S. Open in 1948, the PGA Championship in 1983 and 1995 and the U.S. Senior Open in 1998. It has long been known within golfing circles as "Hogan's Alley", a nickname bestowed upon it by three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret after Hogan won the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open at the Club within a span of 18 months. The par-71 championship course will measure 7,292 yards at the NCAA Championships.
2011 NCAA Championships Recap
Illinois entered the 2011 NCAA Championships as the No. 9 seed and advanced to match play by tying for third out of 30 teams in the 54-hole stroke play round. Individually, Chris DeForest and Luke Guthrie tied for 13th to earn all-tournament honors, while Thomas Pieters tied for 20th.
During the quarterfinal round of match play, the Illini fell to Georgia 3.5-1.5 at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. Illinois ended the year tied for fifth in the nation, tying the Illini's second-best national finish in school history behind only the program's highest finish of fourth in 1941.
All-Time NCAA Finishes
Illinois' five-man lineup includes three golfers with NCAA Championship experience and a pair of freshmen, who will fill the spots left by All-Americans Chris DeForest and Scott Langley from last season's national squad. Senior Luke Guthrie (71.03) will lead the way followed by sophomore Thomas Pieters (71.85), redshirt junior Mason Jacobs (74.20), and freshmen Brian Campbell (74.18) and Alex Burge (77.16). The Illini are using the same lineup as their last five tournaments, including the Big Ten Championships where they won a fourth consecutive conference title and the ASU Invitational where they broke the school record with a 273 (-15) in the second round and fired a season-low total of 846 (-18).
Luke Guthrie // Senior // Quincy, Ill.
First-team All-American in 2011 after tying for 13th at the NCAA Championships ... Will compete at nationals for the fourth-straight season after tying for seventh to help Illinois advance out of the NCAA Norman Regional ... Named 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year and a first-team All-Big Ten selection after winning the individual Big Ten title for the second year in a row ... Became the first back-to-back Big Ten Champion since Northwestern's Luke Donald in 2000-01 and first Illini repeat champion since Steve Stricker in 1988-89 ... Led Illinois to the Big Ten team title for the fourth year in a row, making him the first Illini to win four rings in four years ... Rated as the No. 13 golfer in the NCAA according to Golfweek computer rankings ... Leads team in stroke average at 71.03, which is on pace to break his own school record (71.36) ... Earned the Les Bolstad Award for lowest stroke average in the Big Ten ... Has won three tournaments and placed in the top 20 at all 11 events ... Was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week three times, which tied for the most in the conference ... Earned second title of the season with a victory at the Boilermaker Invitational, where he overcame a six-shot deficit with a final round 67 to win by by one ... Named Big Ten Golfer of the Week on April 25 after win at Purdue, the sixth weekly conference honor of his career ... Also named Big Ten Golfer of the Week on March 7 following his tie for fourth place at the Louisiana Classics ... Won his first title of the year at the D.A. Weibring Invitational, carding a career-low 54-hole score of 203 (-10) and leading Illinois to a repeat team title ... Named Big Ten Golfer of the Week following that victory on Oct. 5 ... Selected to the Ben Hogan Award Watch List at the start of season.
Thomas Pieters // Sophomore // Nijlen, Belgium
Tied for 20th at the 2011 NCAA Championships as a freshman ... First-team All-Big Ten selection ... No. 12-ranked player in the Amateur World Golf Rankings and No. 35 in the NCAA according to Golfweek computer rankings ... Ranks second on the Illini in stroke average (71.85), which is sixth-best in school history ... Has been the team's top finisher at six of 11 tournaments ... Finished second at the NCAA Norman Regional with a 54-hole total of 210 (-6), one stroke back of the winner ... Named to the All-Championship team at the Big Ten Championships after tying for fifth ... Placed in the top 11 at nine events, including his first career title at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational with a 54-hole score of 209 (-7) ... Boasts 14 rounds under par, which is the second-most for the Illini ... Has fired a career-best round of 6-under four times ... Turned in a career-low 54-hole total of 206 (-10) at the Barona Collegiate Cup ... Twice named Big Ten Golfer of the Week - on Oct. 12 following his first victory in Columbus and on April 5 after carding a 207 (-9) to lead the Illini to their best scoring event of the season (-18) at the Augusta State Invitational ... Earned the runner-up spot at the D.A. Weibring Invitational for the second year in a row, tallying a 54-hole score of 207 (-6) ... Named to European team for the 2012 Palmer Cup, the first-ever Belgian selected ... Selected to the Ben Hogan Award Watch List at the start of season.
Mason Jacobs // Redshirt Junior // Metropolis, Ill.
Will compete at the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season (T-66th in 2011) ... Second-team All-Big Ten selection ... Ranks third on the team in stroke average (74.20) and owns four top-15 finishes ... Tied for 21st at the Big Ten Championships and chipped in for eagle on the final hole, which sparked the comeback for Illinois' fourth-consecutive Big Ten title ... Tallied a career-low 54-hole score of 209 (-7) at the Augusta State Invitational, where he also turned in a career-low round of 67 and tied for ninth in a loaded field ... Named Big Ten Golfer of the Week for the first time in his career on Sept. 21 after tying for 11th at Olympia Fields and leading Illinois at the event ... Placed in the top 10 at the D.A. Weibring Invitational by tying for eighth ... Has recorded five rounds under par and six even-par rounds.
Brian Campbell // Freshman // Irvine, Calif.
Fourth on the team in stroke average at 74.18 ... Has competed at all seven spring tournaments and finished in the top 20 at the last three events ... Turned in his best career finish at the NCAA Norman Regional, tying for 10th after matching his career-best 54-hole total of 218 (+2) ... Tied for 15th at the Big Ten Championships with a 72-hole total of 299 (+11), helping Illinois win a fourth-straight Big Ten title ... Tied for 18th at the Boilermaker Invitational ... Placed as the Illini's third finisher five times ... Has turned in a career-low round of 71 four times.
Alex Burge // Freshman // Bloomington, Ill.
Has competed at the last five spring tournaments for Illinois and at the Louisiana Classics as an individual ... Owns a stroke average of 77.16 ... Counted his third round score at the Big Ten Championships, helping Illinois capture a fourth-consecutive conference title ... Contributed both his second and third round scores to the team total at the NCAA Norman Regional ... Carded a career-best tournament total of 225 (+9) at the Augusta State Invitational ... Has twice tallied a season-low round of even-par 72.
Big Ten Coach of the Year Again
Head coach Mike Small was named the 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year and set two conference records by earning a fourth-straight and fifth all-time Coach of the Year award. He surpassed Northwestern's Pat Goss for the most coaching honors since 1988 when the award was first handed out and owns the longest streak for most laurels in a row. In his 12th season at the helm, Small guided Illinois to a four-peat at the Big Ten Championships and a school-record single round of 273 (-15) at the Augusta State Invitational. Along with the four titles, Illinois posted three-straight runner-up finishes from 2002-04 and took third in 2008 with Small at the helm.
Big Ten Championships Recap - Illini 4-Peat, Guthrie Repeats
Illinois (+23) captured its school-record fourth consecutive and 11th total Big Ten title, completing the fourth four-peat in Big Ten history with a thrilling finish over Indiana (+26) at the Pete Dye Course. Senior Luke Guthrie (-5) won Big Ten medalist honors for the second year in a row, making him the third repeat conference champion in school history and first at Illinois since Steve Stricker (1988-89). A chip-in eagle by redshirt junior Mason Jacobs and a 20-foot birdie putt by sophomore Thomas Pieters sealed the comeback victory after the Illini fell behind the Hoosiers down the stretch.
Illinois trailed Indiana by three strokes with Guthrie, Pieters and Jacobs heading into the final three holes. Jacobs drained a 40-foot chip out of the rough on No. 18 to get the Orange and Blue back within one, while an IU triple bogey on No. 17 put the Illini back in front by two. Pieters then rolled in a birdie on his final hole to give Illinois a cushion heading into the last hole, where Guthrie two-putted for par to clinch the win and become the first Illinois golfer to win four Big Ten rings.
Entering the final round, the Illini held a seven-stroke lead over Indiana, which fired the low round of the day at 287 (-1). Illinois carded the second-lowest final round to finish with a 72-hole total of 1175, three shots in front of IU (1178). The three-shot win equaled the slimmest margin of victory at the conference championships since 1999 and was the closest of Illinois' 11 total titles.
Illinois became just the third school in Big Ten history to pull off a four-peat, joining Michigan (1933-36) and Ohio State (1976-80 & 1982-87) in the elite club. It also was the second four-peat at Illinois this year, as the national champion men's gymnastics team won a fourth straight Big Ten title in 2012. The Illini also earned the conference's automatic bid into NCAA Regionals, marking the Illini's fifth straight regional berth.
School Record Round at Augusta State Invitational Provides Momentum
During the second round of the Augusta State Invitational, Illinois fired the lowest single team round in school history on a par-72 course with a 273 (-15). The Illini boasted the low team score during that round at the Forest Hills Golf Club, paced by a 66 from sophomore Thomas Pieters, who equaled his career-best of 6-under. Redshirt junior Mason Jacobs also had a career-low round with a 5-under 67, while senior Luke Guthrie tallied a 4-under 68 and freshman Alex Burge matched a career low with an even-par 72 to complete the Illini record. Overall, the Orange and Blue placed third with a season-low score of 846 (-18) behind two-time defending national champion Augusta State and No. 1 Texas. The tournament sparked a streak of four consecutive top-four finshes by the Illini.
Guthrie to Reset Own Single-Season Stroke Average Record
Senior Luke Guthrie is on pace to break his own single-season stroke average record at Illinois. Guthrie grabbed the top spot on the list as a junior with a mark of 71.36, surpassing the record set the previous year by national champion Scott Langley (71.37). The Quincy, Ill., native currently boasts an average of 71.03 after tallying 23 rounds of even par or better out of 34 total rounds in 2011-12. After combining to shoot +13 during his first two tournaments of the season, Guthrie bounced back with a career-low 54-hole total of 203 (-10) in his victory at the D.A. Weibring Invitational. Over the final nine tournaments of the year, he has finished under par eight times, combining to shoot -34 during that stretch. Sophomore Thomas Pieters also will crack the top-10 list, as he currently sits sixth with a stroke average of 71.85.
Guthrie on Pace for Career Stroke Average Record
Senior Luke Guthrie also is on pace to set the career stroke average record at Illinois. Over his four seasons at Illinois, Guthrie has totaled an average of 72.06 after 135 rounds in Orange and Blue. He has turned in a mark of 73.00 or better each year and is currently playing his best golf as a senior with a school-record mark of 71.03. Guthrie averaged 73.00 as a freshman in 2008-09, 72.85 as a sophomore in 2009-10 and 71.36 as a junior in 2010-11.
Illinois Nabbed a Conference-Best Six Big Ten Golfer of the Week Honors
During the 2011-12 season, Illinois golfers were honored by the conference office six times, the most by any Big Ten school. Senior Luke Guthrie tied with Northwestern's Eric Chun for the most weekly accolades in the Big Ten this season with three, while sophomore Thomas Pieters tallied two laurels and redshirt junior Mason Jacobs had one.
In the fall, Jacobs earned the first award on Sept. 21 after turning in the highest finish by a Big Ten golfer at the prestigious Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational with an 11th-place showing and a 54-hole score of 216 (+6). Guthrie took home the next one on Oct. 5 after turning in the best tournament of his career to win the D.A. Weibring Invitational with a career-low 203 (-10). Pieters snagged the third laurel in Illinois' fourth and final fall tournament, as he won his first career title at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational with a 54-hole score of 209 (-7).
In the spring, Guthrie picked up the honor again on March 7 after he tied for fourth at 4-under (212) at the Louisiana Classics. Pieters was recognized for a second time on April 5 after he fired a 207 (-9) to lead the Illini to their best scoring event of the season (-18) at the Augusta State Invitational. Guthrie nabbed the final honor of the regular season on April 25 following his victory at the Boilermaker Invitational. He entered the final round six shots off the lead and fired a 5-under 67 to win the individual title by one stroke with a 3-under 213.