Home Sports Illinois men’s golf, seeking its 1st national title, advances to match play as the No. 3 seed

Illinois men’s golf, seeking its 1st national title, advances to match play as the No. 3 seed

by staff

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Illinois will play Florida State in a quarterfinal match Tuesday after advancing from four rounds of stroke play in the NCAA men’s golf championship.

Coach Mike Small’s Illini — winners of 13 of the last 14 Big Ten titles but still seeking the program’s first national championship — entered Monday’s final round in first place but dropped to the No. 3 seed in match play after shooting a 4-over-par 284. The Illini totaled 2-under 1,118 over 72 holes.


North Carolina earned the No. 1 seed at 6-under 1,114, while top-ranked Vanderbilt struggled to a 21-over total and missed match play by nine shots. The Tar Heels will play Arizona State, which beat Stanford in a playoff for the final spot in match play.

The other two quarterfinals have Florida against Virginia and Pepperdine versus Georgia Tech.


Illinois’ Jackson Buchanan had a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Florida’s Fred Biondi in the individual competition, but Buchanan narrowly missed and tied Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman for second at 6-under 274.

“This season has been phenomenal,” Buchanan said. “There were some ups and downs, but it was great.”

The Illini’s Tommy Kuhl and Adrien Dumont de Chassart were tied for seventh at 1-under 279.

Biondi shot a 3-under 67 and rallied from a five-shot deficit to Steelman in the final round to earn Florida’s third individual men’s championship. He shot a 2-under 35 on the front nine at Grayhawk Golf Club and was three back after a bogey on No. 12.

The senior from Brazil birdied the par-4 14th and closed with four straight pars, two-putting from 50 feet on No. 18 to finish at 7-under 273. Biondi joins Bob Murphy (1996) and Nick Gilliam (2001) as national champions from Florida while earning a trip to next year’s Masters.

“I just tried to stay calm and patient,” Biondi said. “You’re going to make mistakes out there and I feel like if I stay patient, I have a better chance of coming out on top.”

Steelman had a three-shot lead after 15 holes but closed with three straight bogeys for a 73 to open the door for Biondi.

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Steelman was 6 over through his first six holes at Grayhawk a year ago and had three birdies in four rounds to finish 76th.


Knowing what to expect, he conquered Grayhawk’s Raptor Course in the opening round this year, rolling in six birdies during a bogey-free 64 for the first-round lead. He went 68-69 the next two days, taking a four-shot lead into the final round.

Steelman saw his overnight lead cut in half with a double bogey on the par-4 sixth but followed with birdies on Nos. 8 and 11 to take a three-shot lead at 9 under.

Then he unraveled.

Steelman three-putted from the fringe on the par-3 16th and took another bogey on No. 17 when his tee shot stopped in a divot and he couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker. That dropped him into a tie with Biondi at 7 under.

After a long wait on the 18th tee. Steelman crushed a drive on the converted par 5 but nearly pushed his second shot into the water right of the green. He left his chip shot about 10 feet short and missed the putt, falling one behind Biondi.

Biondi remained steady while Steelman faltered. Biondi two-putted for par on Nos. 16 and 17, then hit a massive drive on the 520-yard par-4 18th. He watched his approach shot bounce hard to the left side of the green and made a 4-foot par putt for the title.

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