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2017 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship: Illinois advances to 5th consecutive Match Play, will face USC in quarterfinals

After riding a wave of birdies on the final two holes, Illinois will face USC in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.

Brad Repplinger - The Champaign Room

For the sixth time in the last seven years, the Fighting Illini Men’s Golf program will advance to the match play round of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship. The Illini finished the final round of stroke play with a total score of 1154 (+2 overall), earning the third seed in the match play portion of competition.

The Illini have struggled to close their rounds under par this week, posting a combined score on the last two holes of +12. Today’s round proved to be different, as Illinois closed the final round with a combined eagle and two birdies. Edoardo Lipparelli sent a roar through the grounds of Rich Harvest Farms with a closing eagle on 18.

“It looked good,” Lipparelli explained after his round. “It went in, and was definitely a great experience in front of the crowd. To finish like that is pretty amazing.”

Scoring conditions were tough, as every team in the field posted a final round score over par.

Nick Hardy fired a team-best 75 (+3), and both Edoardo Lipparelli and Michael Feagles posted rounds of 76 (+4). Dylan Meyer started the day at -9 for the tournament, but finished at -4 after a round of 77 (+5). Despite the struggle, a clutch birdie on the 17th hole all but cemented a place in the team match play round.

“We knew it was going to be windy coming into it,” said Meyer. “It’s something you have to adapt to throughout the day. We’re a strong team. We survived, we advanced, and now we’re headed into match play.”

This team is no stranger to the match play format in the NCAA tournament. The Illini have the most match play appearances of any team in college golf with six, and a change in format means almost anything can happen. Last season, Illinois fell to the eventual national champion Oregon Ducks in the semifinal round. After a tough loss last year, Coach Mike Small is focusing the team mentality on the present, not the past.

“We know what we have to do,” said Small. “Everybody’s gotta take care of their job tomorrow. If they all do that, it’s a good thing.”