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March 8, 2005

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s golf team faces a stout field this weekend when it travels to Las Vegas, Nev., to compete in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship, March 11-13. UNLV hosts the tournament, which will be played at Southern Highlands Golf Club (par 72, 7,510 yards).

Eleven of the 15 teams in the field are ranked in the top 15 if this week’s Golfweek Collegiate rankings. The remaining four teams, including South Carolina at No. 20, appear in the top 24 of the March 7 poll.

“This is by far the best field we’ve seen all year,” Blackmon said. “All of the best teams, from the East, West and in between will be there. It’s a great opportunity for our team to see how we stack up against the best in the country, playing in a different climate. I’m excited to see how our young kids respond to the big time competition.”

Head coach Puggy Blackmon will take a lineup that includes one senior, Alex Hamilton; two juniors, Eirik Johansen and Robert Svensson; and two freshmen, Mark Anderson and Warren Thomas.

In the Gamecocks’ last tournament, the Mercedes-Benz Colleigate Championship, Feb. 20-22, Johansen, Svensson and Anderson all tied for 11th to lead USC to a tie for fifth place overall.

The tournament will be 54 holes of stroke play with 18 holes each day. The low four scores will count toward each team total.

This year’s Southern Highlands field consists of (Golfweek ratings in parenthesis) Arizona State (14), Auburn (6), Clemson (19), Florida (9), Georgia (3), Georgia Tech (2), New Mexico (4), Oklahoma State (1), South Carolina (20), TCU (11), Texas (13), UCLA (12), UNLV (18), Wake Forest (5) and Washington (24).

Live scoring for the entire tournament will be available online at by clicking on live scoring.

Quoting Head Coach Puggy Blackmon

On Eirik Johansen, Robert Svensson and Mark Anderson: “Johansen, a former All-American, is returning to form. With improved putting, he could be in line to post multiple wins. Svensson has had a major breakthrough and is gaining confidence each outing. Anderson has been very impressive so far this spring. He is learning rapidly and is playing like a seasoned veteran.”

On the Gamecocks’ lineup in Las Vegas: (In addition to Johansen, Svensson and Anderson,) Senior Alex Hamilton will return to the lineup in Las Vegas (at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship) following a couple of minor swing changes. Once he returns to playing the way he did last summer and fall, things could get very exciting.”

“Freshman standout and Columbia native Warren Thomas will complete the lineup for Las Vegas. He has had five rounds of 72 or under in competition. With confidence, he has the ability to overpower a course due to his exceptional length.”