SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Illinois men’s golf team advanced to the match play portion of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship as the No. 3 seed after wrapping up Monday’s stroke play finale in a tie for second place, behind three top-10 individual scores, highlighted by sophomore Jackson Buchanan’s runner-up finish.
It marks the program’s eighth appearance in match play in the last 14 NCAA Championships – the current format was adopted in 2009 – breaking a tie with 2022 national champion Texas, who missed yesterday’s cut down to 15 teams, and moving the Illini to one behind Oklahoma State who did not qualify for this year’s championship.
“Mission accomplished,” Small said after the round concluded. “You come here, like you do at regionals, to keep advancing, and we advanced. We got to the final eight.
“We’ve played a lot of good golf this week. We didn’t have our best today – came out a little flat – but we persevered through it, circled the wagons, and got a respectable score so that’s a very positive sign. But we made it through and that’s all that counts.”
Buchanan was key to the Illini’s ability to salvage a slow start. The team opened the day with a three-shot lead but combined to record 11 bogeys and one double-bogey on the front nine, while carding just four birdies, three of which were tallied by Buchanan.
The sophomore from Dacula, Ga., was 3-under at the turn to put himself in the mix for the individual title. His only blip was a bogey on No. 11, but he added a fourth birdie on 17. That, plus his incredible approach out of a fairway bunker set up a putt on 18 that would have matched eventual champion Fred Biondi of Florida at 7-under. Buchanan’s putt, however, was just wide right allowing Biondi, who was playing in the final grouping behind Buchanan, to close out the win with a par finish.
Buchanan’s runner-up is the third-best individual NCAA Championship finish in program history, behind only Scott Langley and Thomas Pieters who each won the individual title in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
“It was an awesome day,” Small added of the Buchanan’s closing 67 (-3). “He handled himself like a veteran, with maturity. He rolled the good times and got rid of the bad times during the round. I was very, very impressed and proud of him.”
The fifth-year senior duo of Adrien Dumont de Chassart and Tommy Kuhl tied for seventh to close out their final stroke-play rounds as members of the Fighting Illini and notch their names in the Illinois record book after posting – along with Buchanan – just the 10th, 11th, an 12th top-10 individual finishes at the NCAA Championship in program history.
The trio secured NCAA All-American status by virtue of their top-15 finishes, and also made Illinois the only program in the three-year run of the NCAA Championship at Grayhawk to end stroke play with three players inside the top 10.