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April 25, 2008

By Michael Bohlin, University of South Carolina Media Relations

University of South Carolina senior Mark Anderson has won many awards stretching from being named SEC Freshman of the Year and GCAA PING All-America in 2005 to appearing on the league’s Academic Honor Roll three straight years. While those accomplishments mean a lot to Anderson, he is more concerned with what the team can accomplish. As Anderson and his teammates await the announcement of the NCAA Regional fields, he reflected on his Gamecock career and his start in the game.

Anderson has been playing golf since an early age. Growing up in Maryland, his game began to flourish upon moving to Beaufort, S.C., in the fifth grade. Anderson credits much of his success in golf to one man and the opportunity he gave him.

“Mike Harmon at Secession Golf Club always let me in to play on the course, even though I wasn’t a member,” Anderson said.

It was an act that became instrumental in Anderson’s growth in the game. Once he hit the eighth and ninth grades, he began taking everything he learned at Secession Golf Club and using it towards the more competitive tournaments he began to play. Anderson was a six-year letterman at Beaufort Academy as well as a four-time all-conference and all-state selection and committed to Carolina as a junior.

“I liked Coach (Puggy) Blackman a lot,” he said. “I liked the enthusiasm he had about this program and how he wanted me to help him build it up to what he envisioned. Committing early also took a lot of pressure off of me during my senior year because I already knew where I was going.”

Upon coming to South Carolina, Anderson knew he would be stepping into a whole new world of competition.

“There’s no comparison,” he said. “National tournaments are close to Division I golf, but Division I is by far the most competitive. Everyone can play on this level. There’s a difference in how you have to play your game, too. There is much more strategy and preparation here than there was in high school golf.”

Anderson continued to elevate his game since arriving in Columbia. He won the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational in 2005 and finished second at the Southern Highlands Intercollegiate, losing in a playoff after finishing tied for the lead after 54 holes. This spring has been good to Anderson as well. He has finished in the top 20 in every tournament he has played, including three top-10 finishes.

Still, Anderson has many goals that he and this South Carolina team want to achieve before the end of this season.

“I want to play consistent golf for myself and finish tournaments stronger and hopefully win one before the season ends,” he said. “And I want the team to win a championship. This team is really coming together, and I think we have a shot to win as long as we keep working hard.”

Coming off a second-place finish at the SEC Championship last week, the Gamecocks’ best finish since 1998, the team appears poised to make a run at its second-straight NCAA Regional title. If the seventh-ranked Gamecocks are to write more history, a lot will rest on the leadership of team captain and professional golf hopeful Mark Anderson.