FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (UI Release) - Illinois posted the second-best score among the 14-team field on a tough Friday at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at the par-72, 7,251-yard Blessings Golf Club, carding a four-over-par 292 to sit in second place, one shot behind host and second-seeded Arkansas, which was -5 on the day. More importantly, there is a 21-stroke gap between the Illini and a sixth-place tie between Tulsa and SMU, as the top five teams and low individual not on a qualifying team advance to the NCAA Championships. Illinois will tee off in the final round Saturday at 8:40 a.m. alongside players from Arkansas and Texas.
Illinois' 292 was one of only two scores within 10 strokes of par, along with Arkansas, which took the lead thanks to a five-under-par 283. Texas sits third at +7 overall, Oklahoma State is fourth at +14 and Kent State is fifth at +15. Tulsa and SMU are tied for sixth at +19.
Sophomore Brian Campbell fired a five-under-par 67, Illinois' third round in the 60s for the tournament, to improve 41 spots - making him the day's biggest mover - to stand tied for eighth individually at even par. Freshman Thomas Detry carded a two-over-par 74 and stands tied for fourth at -2 overall, while freshman Charlie Danielson is tied for sixth at -1 after carding a 78 Friday. Junior Thomas Pieters is tied for 11th at +1 overall after notching a 73. Sophomore Alex Burge continued to scuffle, shooting an 81 on the day. Mario Clemens (SMU), Austin Cook (Arkansas) and Mitchell McLeroy (Stephen F. Austin) share the individual lead at -4.
"The course dried up and it got a lot faster," Illinois head coach Mike Small said. "The pins were tougher and this course is very, very difficult. There were a lot of levels of adversity thrown at us today, from things we created to the course to some outside factors the really tested us. As a team, we persevered and really fought through those things. Brian Campbell shooting 67 was a big part of that. That eraser score was huge for us today. Everybody had a time in their round where they were put to a test and they all withstood it pretty well, which was encouraging.
"Detry was solid all day and Pieters plays his last three holes two-under, which is what you need from your stud. These two freshmen were playing Nos. 1 and 2 for us in an NCAA regional along with Oklahoma State and Texas, two perennial powers, on the toughest course we've seen all year. To play like we did was awesome, but we have to come after tomorrow because we have a chance to beat a top-15 Arkansas team on its home course, too, and that would be a great accomplishment. Good players and good teams shine on days like this. We've got to finish it off."
Campbell was able to put his two bad holes from Thursday behind him, starting Friday's round with three pars before notching a birdie on No. 4. After a par on 5, he birdied the par-4 6th hole and made the turn at -2. He started the back nine with two more pars before carding a birdie on the No. 12 and an eagle on the par-4 13th. He birdied the par-3 15th but dropped a shot with a bogey on No. 17 to finish his round at five-under-par.
Detry rebounded from a pair of early bogeys with a birdie on No. 9 to make the turn at +1. He birdied No. 12 to get back to even, but gave the shot back on the par-4 13th. Once again, Detry got back to par with a birdie on No. 16, but bogeyed his final two holes to finish with a 74.
Pieters played the front nine at -1 but struggled just after the turn, going bogey-double bogey-bogey on Nos. 10-12 to sit at +3. But he regained control and birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to finish +1 on the day. Danielson had an adventuresome round, starting with a double-bogey and bogeying No. 3 to quickly fall to +3. But he rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4, 7 and 9 to get back to even at the turn. But he made consecutive triple-bogeys on the par-3 10th and par-4 11th. He bogeyed No. 13, falling to +7, but rallied with a birdie on the par-4 14th and four consecutive pars to finish his round.