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Sept. 26, 2010

By Wes Todd
Assistant Media Relations Director

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A furious charge in the closing holes gave South Carolina a second straight round under par on Sunday, but fell two shots short of a second tournament title in three years at the Mason Rudolph Championship. The Gamecocks were runners-up for the second straight year, finishing two shots behind tournament champion Memphis.

Freshman Blaine Woodruff led the charge all three days, posting a 7-under-par 206 to take runner-up honors, one shot behind tournament medalist Jack Belote of Memphis. Fellow freshman Logan Harrell was also a major contributor to the final-round effort, posting three straight bogeys on the final three holes to close with a 69 (-2), his best round as a Gamecock.

“I was really proud of our freshmen,” head coach Bill McDonald said, “Blaine Woodruff in particular. Caulder Moore had a good tournament for his college event, and Logan put together a good round today. We made a pretty good run at them; we were a few shots back with four or five holes to play and had a nice little stretch there toward the end. I think it was great experience for our younger guys to get in the hunt. We’re all disappointed we didn’t get it done, but they handled it very well.”

Through 14 holes in Sunday’s final round, South Carolina was struggling to make birdies and stood at 4-over-par as a team, having dropped from second to fourth place with Oklahoma, Mississippi and 2009 champion Middle Tennessee State mounting a strong early charge. But holes 15 through 18 proved to be a birdie bonanza as the team combined to make eight birdies over the final four holes, including four at the closing 18th, to vault the Gamecocks back into second place. However, Memphis was 3-under on the same stretch, preventing Carolina from closing the gap any further. The Tigers posted a three-day total of 842 (-10), two ahead of the Gamecocks at 844 (-8).

The Gamecocks’ team total ranks as the sixth-best in school history, surpassing a pair of 845s at the 1997 Palmetto Classic and the 1997 Gator Invitational. It falls five shots short of an 839 at the 2008 Mason Rudolph Championship, which the Gamecocks won. The effort also marked a tremendous turnaround from the team’s opening tournament two weeks ago, when the Gamecocks finished 12th out of 12 teams with a score of 902 (+38) at the Carpet Capital Collegiate – a 58-stroke improvement.

Woodruff’s runner-up showing is the best finish by a South Carolina freshman since Wesley Bryan, a junior on this year’s team, tied teammate Paul Woodbury for medalist honors at the 2008 Rees Jones Intercollegiate. It also continued a trend of high finishers for the Gamecocks at the Mason Rudolph Championship as senior Patrick Rada took runner-up honors in the 2009 event.

The Acworth, Ga., native’s round got off to an inauspicious start with seven straight pars, followed by bogeys at the eighth and 10th to drop him to 2-over for the day. After four more pars, he caught fire on the final four holes – as did the rest of the team – with birdies on 15, 17 and 18 to finish under par for the third straight day at 1-under 70. His 54-hole total of 206 (-7) ties eight others for the 10th-best tournament total in school history, previously attained by George Bryan IV and Woodbury at the 2010 Augusta State Invitational, where the Gamecocks also took runner-up honors.

Harrell, meanwhile, posted his best round as a Gamecock as he also came through in a big way in the closing holes. The Huntersville, N.C., native opened with nine consecutive pars – running his bogey-free streak on the front nine to 26 holes – before carding a bogey at the lengthy par-4 10th. However, five more pars led him to the 16th, where he started a streak of three straight birdies to end his day with a 69 (-2) and leave him at 1-over-par 214 and tied for 17th place.

Also tied for 17th place was the team’s third freshman, Caulder Moore, who was competing in his initial collegiate tournament. Moore made the turn at 1-under after birdies at Nos. 4 and 9 to offset a bogey at No. 2. He then dropped back to even par with bogey at the 12th, but then closed with birdie at No. 18 to post his first round under par as a collegian with a 70 (-1). Junior Wesley Bryan had a rough closing round with a 76 to drop out of the tournament’s top 10, unable to card a birdie in his final round to go along with three bogeys and a double-bogey, and finished in a tie for 29th place.

Meanwhile, sophomore Dean Hester posted his best round of the week with an even-par 71 to climb 14 spots to a tie for 41st place. Hester started strong with two birdies in his first four holes and made the turn at 1-under, but a double-bogey at No. 10 – a trouble spot all week – dropped him to 1-over. He got the stroke back with birdie at the 11th, then dropped back over par with bogey at No. 13. But like the rest of his teammates, he birdied the closing hole to post an even-par round.

Following Memphis and South Carolina, Ole Miss took third place with a final-round 280 (-4) to finish at 847 (-5), three shots behind the Gamecocks. Oklahoma was fourth, one shot back of the Rebels, and defending champ MTSU shot 10-under in the closing round to vault into fifth place at 850 (-2).

Behind Belote and Woodruff was Will Kropp of Oklahoma in third place at 208 (-5), and three players tied for fourth place – Memphis’ Jonathan Fly, Vanderbilt’s Adam Hofmann and Mississippi’s Jonathan Randolph – at 209 (-4).

The Gamecocks will not play again as a team until the U.S. Collegiate Championship, which runs Oct. 24-26 at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga. However, four individuals will compete in the Rees Jones Intercollegiate – a tournament the Gamecocks won two consecutive years – at Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, S.C., Oct. 4-5.

2. Blaine Woodruff – 69-67-70=206 (-7)
T17. Logan Harrell – 74-71-69=214 (+1)
T17. Caulder Moore – 72-72-70=214 (+1)
T29. Wesley Bryan – 71-69-76=216 (+3)
T41. Dean Hester – 73-75-71=219 (+6)

1. Memphis – 274-284-284=842 (-10)
2. South Carolina – 285-279-280=844 (-8)
3. Mississippi – 282-285-280=847 (-5)
4. Oklahoma – 274-292-282=848 (-4)
5. Middle Tennessee State – 292-284-274=850 (-2)
6. Vanderbilt – 285-286-285=856 (+4)
T7. Chattanooga – 290-282-286=858 (+6)
T7. Davidson – 287-287-284=858 (+6)
9. Akron – 289-287-290=866 (+14)
10. Mississippi State – 292-290-287=869 (+17)
11. Arkansas State – 293-290-287=870 (+18)
12. South Alabama – 294-294-283=871 (+19)
13. Georgia State – 306-287-291=884 (+32)
14. Tennessee-Martin – 302-288-298=888 (+36)
15. Western Carolina – 294-293-302=889 (+37)
16. Belmont – 301-296-302=899 (+47)
17. Lipscomb – 297-315-300=912 (+60)