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March 29, 2010

AWENDAW, S.C. – Monday was a banner day for South Carolina sophomore Wesley Bryan and senior Patrick Rada as both fired the best rounds of their collegiate careers to boost the Gamecocks to second place through two rounds at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate, two shots back of tournament leader LSU.

With a round of 30-34=64 (-7), Bryan tied the tournament record and bested his previous collegiate best by three strokes in setting the pace for South Carolina. The sophomore from Chapin, S.C., had a stretch of seven birdies in eight holes to get to 7-under through 10 holes. He would record par on the next five holes before his only blemish of the day, a bogey at the par-4 16th. But he would close with birdie on No. 18 to get to 64, the low round of the tournament and a tie for fifth place.

“I haven’t seen anyone dialed in that tightly for that kind of stretch in a long time,” head coach Bill McDonald said. “He was hitting the ball really well, but he was also making a lot of long putts. He canned about a 15- or 20-footer on No. 9, and he barely missed birdying eight in a row when he left it on the edge on No. 7. But that’s the most focused I’ve ever seen him, he was really dialed in today.”

Bryan’s previous best collegiate round came on the opening day of the 2009 NCAA Southeast Regional when he signed for a 67 at RedTail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. Personally, his best was a 62 in a qualifier for the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2007 when he had 10 birdies and no bogeys. Two other players have shot 64 at the Hootie – Kentucky’s Jordan Blann posted the number in the 2009 event, and Jamie Miller of Augusta State had a 64 in 2006. Both scores came in the tournament’s second round. Miller went on to win the tournament, and Blann tied for fifth in last year’s event.

Rada was equally impressive, posting a 33-33=66 (-5) for the best outing of his four-year Gamecock career, one stroke better than a 67 in the first round of this season’s Mason Rudolph Invitational back in September. The senior from Anderson, S.C., had just one bogey among six birdies, and was bogey-free over his last 14 holes for his record-setting round. Coupled with his even-par total of 71 in Sunday’s first round, Rada stands at 5-under for the tournament and in second place, two shots out of the lead.

“In kind of a weird way, I think having to qualify (against freshman Dean Hester last week) for this made Patrick appreciate things some,” McDonald said. “It might have lit a bit of a fire underneath him. He’s looked really good this week. He’s really relaxed and having fun out there.”

Senior Paul Woodbury also broke into red figures with a 1-under-par round of 70 that included two birdies and one bogey. It was an eight-stroke improvement over Sunday’s round that moved him into a tie for 46th place. Fellow senior George Bryan IV shot 73 (+1), a round that included 17 pars and just one bogey, and freshman Clint Tolleson equaled Bryan IV with a 73 (+1) of his own.

The Gamecocks’ team score of 272 (-12) tied for the fourth-best 18-hole team score in school history, equaling efforts in the 1999 TaylorMade/Red River Classic and the 1999 Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate. It marked a 24-stroke improvement over the team’s first-round score.

LSU shot 278 (-6) on the day to maintain the team lead at 566 (-2), two shots ahead of the Gamecocks, who are at even par through two rounds. Virginia is third, one shot back of South Carolina at 569 (+1). Individually, Matt Hill of NC State maintained the lead for the second day as the defending NCAA Champion shot 67 to move to 135 (-7) for the tournament, two shots ahead of Rada and LSU’s Sang Yi, who are both at 137 (-5). Scores were much better across the board as conditions improved drastically from Sunday’s first round.

“The course got a lot of rain last night,” McDonald said, “and everything was really calm early on. We made the turn and then the wind picked up a little bit, but it wasn’t anything like what we had (Sunday). It looks like tomorrow is going to be a real shootout.”

The Gamecocks will look for their third first-place finish in a tournament this season and their first at the Hootie at Bulls Bay as they will be paired with LSU and Virginia for Tuesday’s final round. The Gamecocks’ tee times will begin at 9:40 a.m. on the No. 1 tee, and fans can follow live scoring through

T2. Patrick Rada – 71-66-137 (-5)
T5. Wesley Bryan – 75-64=139 (-3)
T25. George Bryan IV – 72-72=144 (+2)
T46. Paul Woodbury – 78-70=148 (+6)
T58. Clint Tolleson – 79-72=151 (+9)