FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Illinois fired a final-round total of five-over-par 293 to seal its fifth-straight Big Ten championship on Sunday and 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). Sophomore Brian Campbell shot Illinois’ best round with an even-par 72, one of only six players to shoot par or better on the day, and finished tied for second at one-over-par 289. And freshman Thomas Detry gave the Illini three golfers in the top 10, carding a 74 to finish at seven-over-par 295, tied for eighth. Pieters and Campbell were named to the All-Big Ten Championships team for finishing in the top five.
The team victory marks the first time an Illinois team has won at least five consecutive Big Ten titles since the Illini men’s gymnastics team won 11 consecutive championships from 1950-60. Pieters’ win gives the Illini three consecutive conference medalists for the first time in school history. It also marks only the first time one Big Ten school has had three straight medalists since 1979 and is only the sixth time in conference history that it has happened.
Illinois’ win also marks the first time a Big Ten men’s golf team has won five or more consecutive titles since Ohio State won six in a row from 1982-87. It is only the fourth time a team has won five or more straight championships in conference history (Michigan, 1932-36; Ohio State, 1976-80; Ohio State, 1982-87). Highlights from the final round will air on the Big Ten Network at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, May 12.
“It’s a great day,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said. “Minnesota played great and got within three with a couple holes to go. But for our guys to persevere and come through like that was great. Alex (Burge) played a solid round at 1-over, Brian Campbell had a solid round birdying 17 and 18. It was kind of a tough situation for Thomas (Pieters), playing for the team yet you’re trying to watch your lead. That’s a hard dynamic in college golf, but he played solid. I’m just proud of the guys, they all played well.”
Additionally for the Illini, Burge tied for 17th at +12 on the weekend following his best round of the tournament on Sunday, a one-over-par 73. Freshman Charlie Danielson tied for 25th at +14 after notching a 78 on Sunday.
The round started a bit choppy for the Illini, as Burge and Danielson bogeyed No. 1. But Burge got it back with a birdie on No. 2 before dropping back with a bogey on 3. Pieters and Campbell each bogeyed No. 5, but Burge notched a birdie there and on No. 6 to get to -1 on the day. Danielson also birdied No. 6 to get back to even par.
But Burge bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8 to make the turn at +1, while Pieters turned at +2 after a bogey on No. 8. Danielson also bogeyed 7 and 8 to go to +2 at the turn. Detry made the turn at +1 after a bogey on 8.
Detry and Danielson each birdied the par-4 10th hole, moving Illinois to +3 on the day. But Danielson bogeyed No. 11, then Campbell and Detry bogeyed 12. Detry and Danielson each bogeyed 13, putting them at +2 and +3, respectively. Campbell’s bogey on 12 pushed him to +2 on the day.
The Illini made up some ground on No. 14 as both Pieters and Burge birdied it, and the other three made par. But No. 16 took a swipe at the squad, with Danielson carding a 5 on the par-3, and Pieters and Detry both bogeying it. Pieters, Burge and Danielson all bogeyed No. 17, but Campbell birdied it and Detry made a nice up-and-down to save par and stem the tide as Minnesota had closed to within three strokes at that point.
Illinois pulled it together on No. 18, with Burge and Danielson notching pars before Detry, Campbell and Pieters all knocked in birdies to seal the victory.