July 29, 2013
2013 Final Notes | Big Ten 5-Peat Page | Pieters & Small After NCAA Title Match | Photos | Final Statistics
Illini Finish Second in Nation, Highest Finish in Program History
Illinois made an improbable run at the NCAA Championships, reaching the match-play portion of the event for the second time in the last three years and advancing to the championship match before falling to Alabama. The second-place finish was the highest in program history, besting a fourth-place result in 1941. Along the way, the Illini beat defending champion Texas in the match-play quarterfinals and upset No. 1 California when Thomas Pieters upended Max Homa, the 2013 individual NCAA champion, on the second playoff hole. Illinois placed fifth after 54 holes of stroke play to advance to match play.
Pieters, Danielson Earn All-America Honors
Junior Thomas Pieters and freshman Charlie Danielson earned PING All-America honors following the season. Both golfers were named honorable mention All-Americans, marking Pieters' second career honor and Danielson's first. Danielson finished tied for 13th at the NCAA Championships to automatically earn All-America status as a top-15 finisher, while Pieters was given the honor following the championships based on his overall season.
Pieters Turns Pro Following Season
Junior Thomas Pieters decided to forgo his senior season in Champaign and become a professional golfer following the season. He returned to Europe and joined the European Challenge Tour, which is a notch below the main European Tour. Pieters made his first cut as a professional at the Karnten Golf Open in late June, finishing tied for 23rd, then finished tied for 29th at the French Open on the main European Tour.
Illini Put Together Year for the History Books
In addition to the NCAA runner-up finish, Illinois also won its fifth-straight Big Ten championship, its first-ever NCAA Regional title and six tournament titles in 2012-13, which is the second-most in a season in school history. The seven titles from 2008-09 remains the school record and the Illini have won 26 tournaments in the last five seasons. Illinois achieved one of the finest seasons in school history despite having one of the nation's youngest lineups, as the Orange and Blue featured one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen in the championship portion of the season.
Illini Among Longest Active Streaks of NCAA Final Appearances
Illinois is one of only six schools to advance to the NCAA Championships in each of the past six seasons. The Illini are tied with Texas A&M for the fifth-longest active streak with six consecutive appearances, which checks in behind Florida (13), UCLA (11), USC (7) and Texas (7). Illinois is the only northern school in the elite group.
Illini Win Fayetteville Regional to Qualify for NCAA Championships
The Illini accomplished something in 2012-13 that no other team in school history had done before: win an NCAA Regional title. In the fifth year of the format where the top five teams from each of six regional sites qualify for the NCAA Championships, Illinois started strong behind a first-round 7-under-par 65 from freshman Charlie Danielson that put the Orange and Blue atop the leaderboard by three shots. The host Razorbacks made a charge on day two, posting four scores of 73 or better to pull ahead of the Illini by one. But sophomore Brian Campbell led the way with a 2-under 70 as Illinois posted a final-round score of 289 to best Arkansas by three strokes and claim its first regional championship. Campbell and freshman Thomas Detry tied for second individually at -2, Danielson finished tied for fifth (E) and junior Thomas Pieters was tied for 10th at +3.
Illini Sweep Big Ten Individual Honors
Reigning five-time Big Ten champion Illinois made a clean sweep of the conference's individual postseason honors on May 1. Thomas Pieters was named Big Ten Men's Golfer of the Year, Thomas Detry was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, both of which are based on a combination of the GolfStat and Sagarin statistical rankings, and head coach Mike Small earned his fifth-straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. Pieters also was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection, while Detry and Brian Campbell were second-team All-Big Ten honorees. In addition, Pieters was named Illinois' sportsmanship award honoree.
With the honor, Small broke two of his own conference records by earning a fifth-straight and sixth career Coach of the Year award. In his 13th season at the helm, Small guided Illinois to its fifth-straight Big Ten championship and the squad now posted six tournament titles, one behind the school record of seven set by the 2008-09 squad.
Illini Win Fifth-Straight Big Ten Title as Pieters Claims Medalist Spot
Illinois (+11) captured its school-record fifth consecutive and 12th total Big Ten title, completing the fourth five-peat in Big Ten history - and first since Ohio State in 1987 - by holding off a scrappy Minnesota (+20) squad at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. Junior Thomas Pieters carded a two-over-par 74, clinching Big Ten medalist honors with a five-stroke victory and a total score of 284 (-4). Pieters and Brian Campbell, who tied for second, were named to the All-Big Ten Championships team for finishing in the top five. Pieters' win gives the Illini three consecutive conference medalists for the first time in school history. It also marks only the first time since 1979 that a Big Ten school has had three straight medalists and is only the sixth time in conference history that it has happened.