CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release) - University of Illinois junior Thomas Pieters (Nijlen, Belgium / Sportschool Hasselt) will pursue his dreams of being a professional golfer following the 2013 spring season, Illini head coach Mike Small announced Tuesday. Pieters was the 2012 NCAA individual champion, Illinois' second in the last three years, and helped the Orange and Blue to their fourth-straight Big Ten championship.
"My experience at Illinois has been awesome and I feel like I have had a very good college career, but my dream has always been to become a professional golfer, and the time will be right after this season. I want to thank Coach Small and Coach (Zach) Guthrie for their incredible support and guidance over the past three years. I couldn't be where I am today without them and I know they will be a great resource for me as I move into professional golf."
On his way to becoming the 2012 NCAA individual champion, Pieters was Illinois' top finisher in seven of 12 tournaments in 2012 and was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten. He placed in the top 11 at 10 events, including his first career title at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational. He had 16 rounds under par on the season, including shooting his career-best, 6-under par, four times. He also earned two Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors. During the summer of 2012, he played for the European team at the 2012 Palmer Cup, helping his squad win the event.
"Thomas has had a great career at Illinois and has a number of impressive accomplishments," Small said. "But it's time for him to move on with his career and enter the world of professional golf. I'm sure he will have a great professional career because of his talent, drive and work ethic. He has been a true pleasure to coach and I sincerely wish him the best.
"We expect Thomas to lead us and have another great season this spring. As with all of our golfers, he will always be a big part of Illinois golf and we will support him fully in his professional career."
Pieters and the Illini tee it up to start the 2013 spring slate on Jan. 26 against Illinois State at the annual Tinervin Cup in Placida, Fla.
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