April 17, 2008
No. 10 South Carolina brings five players to the 2008 SEC Championship who have played in a combined six conference tournaments and 13 NCAA Tournament events (7 regionals, 6 championships). The Gamecocks looking for team and individual glory at the event are seniors Mark Anderson and Warren Thomas, junior Mark Silvers III and sophomores George Bryan IV and Patrick Rada.
Head Coach Bill McDonald
After steering South Carolina to its first NCAA Regional title in 2007 as its associate head coach, Bill McDonald assumed the full title of head coach this season. His official debut has yielded seven top-five finishes in nine touraments, including four straight top-four showings en route to this event.
A few notes about each player’s season and previous SEC Championship highlights.
- Senior Mark Anderson has the most postseason experience in the lineup, playing in every SEC and NCAA event in which the program has competed since his arrival on campus and posting a 73.08 average in those eight tournaments. He is enjoying a career season with a 71.96 average to rank sixth in the SEC and 39th on the Golfweek/Sagarin Ratings Index. He has five top-20 finishes in as many events this spring, including two top-10 outings.
- Sophomore George Bryan IV, an honorable mention All-American last season, brings a 72.46 average into the weekend, which ranks 17th in the SEC. He finished 40th in last season’s SEC Championship, but rebounded from that effort with a 10th-place showing at the 2007 NCAA West Regional. In
- Junior Mark Silvers III is playing in his first SEC Championship this weekend, although he was a key player in last season’s NCAA Regional championship and the team’s top finisher in the NCAA Championship in 22nd place. In the two events combined, he posted a 70.29 average and posted four sub-70 rounds.
- Sophomore Patrick Rada is making his postseason debut this weekend. In fact, he has only recently worked his way into the Gamecocks’ lineup this season. Coming off a summer in which he was named South Carolina Golf Association Player of the Year, Rada has qualified for three events this season. He took fifth at the Furman Invitational this spring with a
- Senior Warren Thomas has played in four tournaments this season and has become a regular in the Gamecocks’ postseason lineup. He has played in two SEC Championships, finishing 16th in last year’s event and 55th as a freshman in 2005. Thomas has been part of two NCAA Regionals and two NCAA Championships as well.
From the Head Coach
“We are excited to be playing in the most competitive conference championship in college golf. There is nothing like the atmosphere of the SEC Championship. Our last four events have proven that we can compete with the best teams in the country. I am particularly proud of our two seniors – Mark Anderson and Warren Thomas – for their leadership this year. Our goal this spring has been to win the SEC, and I believe we are peaking at the right time.”
Gamecocks Against the Field
South Carolina has competed against at least one other SEC team in all 10 of its events this season. The Gamecocks went 19-13 against SEC teams this season, including Callaway Collegiate Match Play where South Carolina defeated Alabama 4-1 before falling to Florida 1-4. While Mississippi, Mississippi State and Arkansas did not cross the Gamecocks’ path this season, Florida and Tennessee were the league teams most frequently sharing the field with South Carolina. The Gamecocks came out ahead of Florida in two of five events and topped Tennessee in three of the five tournaments in which they matched up. Carolina finished ahead of Vanderbilt in all four tournaments the teams shared and placed higher than LSU in the two events in which both teams appeared. In four tries, Auburn and Kentucky bested the Gamecocks just once, and it was in the same tournament, the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate.
Clash of the Titans
South Carolina’s primary nemeses this season have been the nation’s top two teams – Alabama and Georgia. After losing a playoff to the Crimson Tide in the Carpet Capital Collegiate to open the season, the Gamecocks closed their fall campaign with a head-to-head win over Alabama in match play. Georgia finished behind Carolina in the Carpet Capital event but has topped the Gamecocks in the three events they have shared since then. The Bulldogs won The Brickyard Collegiate and the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, while Carolina finished fourth and eighth in those events, respectively. In the Administaff Augusta State Invitational, the most recent duel between the two teams, Georgia finished second, five strokes and two spots ahead of South Carolina.
Showing Some Medal
Sophomore George Bryan IV became South Carolina’s first individual medalist of the season when he took top honors at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational. The victory was the first by a Gamecock since Mark Anderson won the same event in 2005.
Tip of the Hat
Picking up his first collegiate victory over an impressive field at the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational, sophomore George Bryan IV was named National Player of the Week by both Golf World and Golf Week in addition to drawing SEC Player of the Week honors. He was the first Gamecock to earn the national honor since All-American Kyle Thompson was tabbed such by Golf World on Oct. 13, 2000. Bryan became the first player in South Carolina history to earn the award from multiple publications in the same week.
Recent SEC Championship Results
South Carolina enters the 2008 SEC Championship looking for its first league title. The Gamecocks finished second in the 1998 event behind Eric Ecker’s individual medalist performance but have yet to collect the team trophy. Since the event has found a permanent home on St. Simons Island, Ga., in 2001, South Carolina has fared no better than its fifth-place showing in 2003. Individually, 12 Gamecocks have finished in the event’s top 10 in the 16 years South Carolina has been part of the league. The team has seen a player post one of the 10 best scores in 10 different years with two reaching the plateau just twice in the same season. Kyle Thompson’s third-place finish paired with Ecker’s individual title to boost the 1998 team’s run, while Ecker and Brent Roof finished in 10th and seventh place, respectively, in 1997.
Back to Winning Ways
While South Carolina has not won an SEC crown, the Gamecocks have several conference trophies in their history. Prior to joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season, Carolina was part of the Metro Conference for eight seasons. The Gamecocks capped their run of three straight second-place finishes in the league tournament with a championship in the 1991 event just before changing conferences. South Carolina also has one ACC title to its credit, winning the crown in 1964 when the Gamecocks also made their NCAA Championship debut.
Home Grown Success
One look at the Gamecocks’ men’s golf roster and it is clear it is the University of South Carolina with eight of the 12 players choosing their state’s university after high school. The coaches have not just brought players from the home state to fill out the roster. They have brought the state’s elite high school golfers and made them the Gamecocks’ best. In the last three seasons, three of the team’s top five in stroke average have been from inside the state’s borders. Head coach Bill McDonald continues the trend next season, signing two of the state’s top high school players in Wesley Bryan (Chapin, S.C./Dutch Fork) and Clint Tolleson (Spartanburg, S.C./Dorman) to replace a pair of in-state seniors, Mark Anderson and Warren Thomas, who will graduate in the May.