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Illini golf leads after first round of NCAA Regional

Freshman Danielson sets school record on day one
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (UI Release)  - Illinois freshman Charlie Danielson fired a seven-under-par 65, the best round to par in NCAA play in UI history, to grab the individual lead at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional after 18 of 54 holes at the par-72, 7,251-yard Blessings Golf Club on Thursday. The Fighting Illini lead the 14-team regional field by three strokes after posting a team score of 282, Illinois' second-best score of the season and the fifth-best team score in NCAA play in school history. Danielson's 65 was the fifth-best score in any of the six NCAA Regionals and he holds a two-stroke lead over Oklahoma State's Jordan Niebrugge and Kent State's Corey Conners. Fellow freshman Thomas Detry carded a 68 to stand tied for fourth. 

Illinois holds a three-stroke advantage over top-seeded Texas (-3), four over third-seeded Oklahoma State (-2) and six over fifth-seeded Kent State (E). Second-seeded Arkansas holds the all-important fifth-place spot at this point, eight shots behind the Illini at +2, and 10th-seeded Colorado is two shots behind the Razorbacks at +4.

Junior Thomas Pieters notched an even-par 72, tied for 11th, sophomore Brian Campbell shot a five-over-par 77, good for a tie for 49th, and sophomore Alex Burge's 12-over-par 84 has him tied for 70th. 

"It was a roller-coaster day with how we got on it early, kind of struggled in the middle and finished strong," Illinois head coach Mike Small said. "But our two freshmen were our stabilizing forces and Thomas Pieters played well, too. Brian Campbell had a good day, he just had two bad holes. 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. 

"The course played a little bit easier today (than we expected) because it was soft and there wasn't much wind, but there are some great teams here. There's a lot of golf to go. We have to bring the same mindset tomorrow that we brought today, and we'll see what happens."

The Illini started the day on the back nine and Danielson found his first birdie on the par-5 11th and added another on the par-4 14th. After a par on No. 15, Danielson finished the back nine with three consecutive birdies, giving him a nine-hole score of 30. He added four straight pars to start the front nine, notched a birdie on the par-3 5th hole and finished his round with his seventh birdie of the day on the par-5 9th hole. He added 11 pars for a bogey-free round and a career-best 65, topping his previous best of 67 at the par-70 Olympia Fields Country Club South Course during the fall season. 

"Charlie had a good look about him today and was very focused," 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."

Detry wasn't quite as consistent but also carded a career-best round, finishing with a 68 after recording an eagle on the par-5 16th, six birdies and four bogeys. Detry's previous career best was a 70, which he had recorded three times. 

Pieters was solid, if not spectacular. After a birdie on the opening hole, he added another on the par-3 15th but hit the skids on the final three holes of the back nine, carding three consecutive bogeys to make the turn at +1. Pieters pulled it together on the front nine but could never break through, notching another birdie on the par-3 5th and adding eight pars for a 72. 

Campbell had an interesting round, bogeying the par-5 12th before notching an eagle on the par-5 16th. But he double-bogeyed the par-3 17th and posted a quadruple-bogey on the par-4 18th to make the turn at +5. He mostly righted the ship on the front nine, though, evening out a bogey on the par-4 3rd with a birdie on the par-3 8th to finish his round at +5. Burge had a much rougher day, carding an eagle on the 16th but not finding a birdie in a round that ended at +12.

The Illini will tee off in the second round Friday at 9:10 a.m. alongside golfers from Texas and Oklahoma State. 

 NCAA Fayetteville Regional Team Results (through 18 holes)
 Place Team Rd 1
 1 Illinois 282 (-6)
 2 Texas 285 (-3)
 3 Oklahoma State 286 (-2)
 4 Kent State 288 (E)
 5 Arkansas 290 (+2)
 6 Colorado 292 (+4)
 7 SMU 297 (+9)
 8 UNC Wilmington 300 (+12)
 T-9 Liberty 303 (+15)
 T-9 Tulsa 303 (+15)
 T-9 UMKC 303 (+15)
 12 Kentucky 304 (+16)
 13 Indiana 307 (+19)
 14 Alabama State 313 (+25)
 
 NCAA Fayetteville Regional Individual Results (through 18 holes)
 Place Name Rd 1
1 Charlie Danielson 65 (-7)
4 Thomas Detry 68 (-4)
T-11 Thomas Pieters 72 (E)
T-49 Brian Campbell 77 (+5)
T-70 Alex Burge 84 (+12)
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