NORMAN, Okla. — Illinois is in position to reach the NCAA men's golf finals for the fifth consecutive season.
Coach Mike Small has his younger players to thank for the most recent regional run.
Sophomore Thomas Pieters has the 36-hole lead and a pair of freshmen were second-round standouts for Illinois, which sits in fourth place at the Norman Regional entering today's final round. The top five teams advance to the NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
"The important thing is we are in position to have success, but this thing is far from over," UI coach Mike Small said. "The wind blew over 25 mph today and is supposed to get up to 35 mph tomorrow, so anything can happen, and it is still wide open."
The top six teams in the 14-team field are separated by 12 strokes. Illinois is 1 under par and trails front-running Washington by 8 strokes.
Pieters shot a second-round 69 and leads Florida State's Daniel Berger by 1 stroke.
"Thomas played strong and steady today," Small said.
So did freshmen Brian Campbell (his 71 was his second-best round in college) and Alex Burge (78).
"Brian was a big key to the day," Small said. "He grinded it out all day."
A 73 left Luke Guthrie tied for seventh at 2 under.