Illini's Pieters will turn pro after spring

Illinois' Thomas Pieters

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Illinois junior Thomas Pieters, the reigning NCAA champion, will turn pro at the conclusion of this college season and forgo his final year of eligibility.

"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," said Pieters, of Nijlen, Belgium. He was a first-team All-American last season after winning college titles on two PGA Tour venues. Pieters won the NCAA Championship at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., site of the Northern Trust Open, and the Jack Nicklaus Invitational at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial Tournament.

Pieters has seen his former Illinois teammates enjoy quick success in professional golf. Luke Guthrie and Scott Langley are PGA Tour rookies this year, while Chris DeForest will be playing the Tour for a second consecutive season. Langley, like Pieters, won the NCAA individual title while at Illinois.

Pieters won the 2012 Monroe Invitational shortly after his NCAA triumph. He advanced to the Round of 32 at the 2012 U.S. Amateur after beating Jordan Spieth in the first round. Pieters played on Europe's victorious Palmer Cup team, the first Belgian to compete in the annual matches against U.S. collegians.

"Thomas has had a great career at Illinois and has a number of impressive accomplishments," Illinois head coach Mike 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."

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