The Illinois men's golf team won't be moving on in the NCAA Championships, but thanks to Thomas Pieters, they will be bringing home some hardware from Los Angeles.
The sophomore from Belgium won the individual title at Riviera Country Club after an even-par 71 gave him a 54-hole total of 5-under 208, three shots clear of the rest of the field. Pieters is the Illini's second national champion in three years; Scott Langley won in 2010.
Pieters, who shot 69 and 68 in the first two rounds, was one of only two players to break 70 twice at the site of the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open. In 12 starts this season, he finished outside the top 11 only twice and won the Jack Nicklaus Invitational at Muirfield Village, site of this week's Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour.
Pieters' victory took some of the sting out of the Illini posting their worst team total of the week, a 19-over 303 that left them in 21st place at 35 over. The top eight teams advance to match play, and Illinois had entered the final round of stroke play tied for eighth.