UI, freshman start fast

UI, freshman start fast

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Charlie Danielson can’t know what the rest of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional holds for him, but for one day, the freshman was in a class by himself in the history of Illinois men’s golf.

Danielson fired a 7-under 65 Thursday, the best round to par ever by an Illini in NCAA play. The performance vaulted the Osceola, Wis., native to a 2-stroke lead entering today’s second round of the 54-hole tournament at the 7,251-yard Blessings Golf Club.

It also helped carry Illinois to the front of the team race. With three Illini among the top 11 (plus ties), the Big Ten champs built a 3-shot cushion on runner-up and third-ranked Texas.

“Charlie had a good look about him today and was very focused,” UI coach Mike Small said. “He’s a very talented player. He’s learning how to handle himself and capitalize when he has chances. He was a big, big reason for our success today.”

The previous best Illini score to par in an NCAA postseason event was held by current PGA Tour pro Luke Guthrie, who shot a 6-under 65 in the 2011 regional at Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind.

Danielson's Illini classmate, Thomas Detry, was fourth after shooting a 4-under 68. Illinois junior Thomas Pieters, the defending NCAA champion, matched par at 72 and was tied for 11th.

Illinois’ total of 6-under 282 was the fifth-best team score in NCAA play in program history. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, however.

“It was a roller-coaster day with how we got on it early, kind of struggled in the middle and finished strong,” Small said. “But our two freshmen were our stabilizing forces, and Thomas Pieters played well, too.

“It’s a solid day, but like I remind our guys, there’s six minutes left in the first half of a college basketball game, if you compare it to that, so there’s a lot to go yet.”

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