Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: Jan. 27, 2019

Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: Jan. 27, 2019

Born 27 years ago today in Antwerp, Belgium, former Illini star Thomas Pieters is poised to make his move in the world of professional golf. He says his three years at Illinois were just an eyelash away from never getting past his first semester in Champaign-Urbana.

"Adjusting to the American way of life was really tough for me at the start," Pieters said. "I suddenly realized that my English, learned primarily at school and from the sitcom 'Friends', wasn't good enough, and suffering from cruel homesickness in my first semester made me almost not want to return to the U.S. after the Christmas break. My parents eventually convinced me to go back, and by the time my freshman year was over, I couldn't wait to go back and start my sophomore year."

Today, he stands 73rd in the current world rankings and grades as the top Belgain player.

Here is his career story in golf, by the numbers:

2 — He and Scott Langley, in 2012 and 2010 respectively, are the only two Illini players to have won NCAA medalist honors.

3 — Number of Big Ten titles Pieters' UI teams won during his three seasons.

4 — He tied for fourth place at the 2017 Masters, earning $484,000.

5 — Age at which he began playing golf.

6 — Pieters tied for sixth place at the 2018 PGA Championship, winning $334,712.

7 — His strokes average of 72.35 ranks seventh on UI's career list.

16 — Total of Illini golfers (on 20 occasions) who have been Big Ten Championship medalists.

62 — Strokes taken in his lowest round of golf as a pro (third round of the 2015 KLM Open).

71.38 — Number of strokes he averaged as a junior at Illinois.

195.58 — His height in centimeters (6 feet, 5 inches). The tallest player to ever win a major was George Archer, who won the 1969 Masters at 6-5 1 / 2.

420 — Yards of his longest drive (during 2014 NH Collectibles Open in Spain).

$2,068,102 — His career earnings as a professional.

Illini Birthdays

Today: Chris Tamas, volleyball coach (38)

Monday: Jens Kujawa, basketball (54)

Tuesday: Nia Oden, basketball

Wednesday: Malik Turner, football (23)

Thursday: Quinn Richardson, basketball (58)

Friday: Lauren Smitherman, soccer (21)

Saturday: Bill Ridley, basketball (85)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Golf, Sports