Illini Likely Avoid World Amateur No. 1 in NCAA Quarterfinal Matchup vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech will likely not have the services of Christo Lamprecht - the world’s No. 1 ranked amateur player - in its quarterfinal match against No. 1 seed Illinois in the NCAA Championships.

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

May 28, 2024

Illinois will likely avoid seeing the world’s top-ranked amateur player in its quarterfinal match against Georgia Tech this morning.

Christo Lamprecht, a 23-year-old from South Africa who has taken over the amateur golfing world since becoming the youngest player to win the Amateur Championship in his home country at 16 years old, is reportedly still feeling the effects of a back injury suffered earlier this week following an early round at the NCAA Championships.

The No. 1 seed Illini are slated to begin its quarterfinal match against 8-seed Georgia Tech this morning when graduate senior Tyler Goecke will play Georgia Tech senior Bartley Forrester in the first of the best-of-five matches between the two programs.

Lamprecht withdrew Saturday morning prior to teeing off in the second round at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. because of a back injury. Yellow Jackets head coach Bruce Heppler confirmed the Golf Channel’s reporting on Friday evening that Lamprecht’s back “flared up” in the middle of Lamprecht’s opening-round action where he posted a 2-under 70.

“It’s not good,” Hepple said. “It’s locked up, and it spasms. Sometimes that’s from being a little dehydrated and stuff; I had an issue myself in the fall during my fundraiser. And I shared with him, stress is tough. Not that I would ever get lathered up about anything, but my back gets tight when I get like that. And it’s been a long spring with a lot on the line and a couple trips to Dallas and Fort Worth to get awards.”

When the eight head coaches met late on Monday night to submit their roster lineup of five players that would be matched up into head-to-head, best-of-five quarterfinal pairings, Heppler did not have Lamprecht on his team roster. Officials on site have informed IlliniGuys.com that a substitution can occur anytime up to 10 minutes prior to the slated tee time of the matches.

The 6-foot-8 Lamprecht came into this week ranked as the No. 1 amateur player in the world after posting 57 rounds in the 60s and 95 rounds at par or under, out of 129 collegiate career stroke play rounds. He In 2023, he became the third South African in six years to win The British Amateur Championship giving him exemptions into the 2023 Open Championship, 2024 Masters Tournament and 2024 United States Open. Lamprecht posted an opening round 65 in the 2023 Open Championship and would finish his first major championship at tied for 74th.

Georgia Tech officials were hopeful Lamprecht would be able to be subbed back into the starting lineup as the Yellow Jackets attempt to win the program’s first ever national championship after four second place finishes in 1993, 2000, 2002 and 2005.

“I feel bad for him,” Heppler said. “It’s his last one, he wants to play good for the guys, I think that’s been as important as the PGA Tour U stuff for him, and to be stuck here not helping them is tough.”

The Illini won the four-day stroke play part of the 2024 NCAA Championships by 16 strokes in a runaway victory and finished 31 strokes ahead of eighth place Georgia Tech. The margin of victory for Small’s program is the second-largest victory in the stroke play portion since the NCAA switched to this format of four days of stroke play followed by an eight-team match play bracket.

"We've been talking about this and we played well at regionals last week and won by a lot there too. So we've been on a good little run,” Illinois head coach Mike Small said. “Couldn't be happier. Couldn't be prouder."

The Goecke-Forrester match will be followed by a match between Illinois junior Jackson Buchanan as the 2024 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year selection will face Georgia Tech freshman Kale Fontenot. The Illini will send out its freshman sensation Max Herendeen for the third match after he finished tied for second in the 72-hole stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships at 2-under 286. Herendeen will be matched up with Georgia Tech freshman Carson Kim - a former Rolex All-American in 2022 as a junior player. The fourth match will feature Illinois’ most experienced player Piercen Hunt, who is making his second consecutive appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. Hunt, a 23-year-old senior who lost his 2023 quarterfinals match 3&2 to Florida State’s Brett Roberts, will face Georgia Tech sophomore Aidan Tran on Tuesday. Tran, who had only one previous start this spring before this weekend, is the player who Georgia Tech substituted in the lineup after Lamprecht’s back injury occurred. The final match, slated for a 9:30 a.m. CST start time, will feature Illinois sophomore Ryan Voois against 2024 NCAA individual medalist champion Hiroshi Tai. The Yellow Jackets sophomore completed a four-round total of 3-under-par 285 to capture the individual title by one stroke over six other players tied at 2-under. Tai became the fourth ever player in program history to win the NCAA individual medalist honors and his victory ensured him a full exemption out of local and sectional qualifying for the United States Amateur Championship and a full exemption to play in the 2025 Masters Tournament.

"I think it’s about mindset,” said Small on Monday evening about switching the focus from stroke play to match play. “You put so much into stroke play to get to match play and then you have to regenerate yourself for tomorrow morning early. That's tough to do, a whole new format. You have to change your mindset. You still have to play the golf course but I think a lot of kids start playing each other. It's a whole different animal. Now, it's for theater. Now it's for TV. Now, it's for excitement. We've got to adapt to it.”

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