Golf team makes NCAA cut
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Mike Small’s words on Sunday proved to be prophetic.
“In golf, more tournaments are won by people messing up than by somebody going and winning it,” the Illinois golf coach said.
When Caleb Sturgeon’s putt missed on his final hole, it eliminated South Carolina. And moved Illinois into today’s NCAA quarterfinals.
With the top eight advancing, Illinois finished tied for seventh and will meet Stanford in today’s match at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
Needing a low score on Monday, the Illini got it to climb from 10th place at the start of the day. The team shot its second consecutive 280 at the par-70 course.
“Optimism and encouragement and discipline, it was all there today,” Small said. “We got off to kind of a rough start early, but we fought back.”
Of course, the Illini wouldn’t have been close without the work of Big Ten Player of the Year Brian Campbell. He shot the best NCAA tournament round in school history, finishing with a 7-under 63.
That broke the mark set in the second round by teammate Thomas Detry, who shot a 65.
“Brian’s round speaks for itself,” Small said. “That’s just strong, strong golf.
“Every day, we needed somebody to do that. Today, it was Brian’s time and he took control and carried
Next up for Illinois is Stanford, which dominated the stroke-play competition. The Cardinal finished at 13-under, 9 shots better than defending national champion Alabama and LSU.
Small doesn’t mind meeting the Cardinal.
“We’re going against the best team in the country with the two best players,” Small said. “This is one huge opportunity for us to keep going. We came here to win. If you’re going to win, you’ve got to beat them sometime.”
Last time the Illini reached the quarterfinals in 2013, they won their way to the final before losing to the Crimson Tide.
Can history repeat? Small sure hopes so.
For the second consecutive day, the Illini had one of the best rounds. Three teams shot 279, followed by Illinois’ 280.
Charlie Danielson continued his steady play with a third consecutive 70. Jonathan Hauter shot a 73 and Detry finished with a 74.
Playing the back nine first, Campbell birdied the first hole. He gave a shot back at No. 12 before birdies on 17 and 18 took him to minus-2.
Campbell played like a PGA veteran on his second nine. He birdied 1, 2 and 6. He was even better on No. 7, rolling in a 10-footer for an eagle.
“Seven was the hole we were all pointing to,” Small said. “He hit a drive down the middle, which you have to do. He hit an iron in there and made it, which was clutch.”
In the individual race, Campbell finished tied for ninth at 3-under. Stanford’s Cameron Wilson was medalist at 6-under.
The big finish by Illinois was noticed bythe golf alums.
“That was some serious clutch play everyone. Go finish what you guys have started,” tweeted former Illini and current PGA player Luke Guthrie.
“Congrats to Mike Small and Illinois golf for reaching match play at NCAA Championships,” tweeted Steve Stricker.