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Nov. 3, 2013

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — The South Carolina men’s golf team received a huge boost from its No. 3, 4 and 5 golfers on its way to taking the first-round lead at the Wendy’s Kiawah Classic on Sunday afternoon at Turtle Point Golf Club.

Sophomore Will Starke carded a 3-under 69, freshman Ben Dietrich posted a career-low 70 (-2) and junior Will Murphy turned in a 71 (-1) to help the Gamecocks shoot a 283 (-5). South Carolina, the defending Kiawah Classic champion, holds an eight-stroke lead over Radford (291) heading into Monday’s second round. The Gamecocks, who are coming off a win at the Badger Invitational, are now in contention to win consecutive tournaments for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

“I thought we played really well today, and the guys showed a tremendous amount of patience on a tricky golf course,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “The winds were swirling all day, and it was difficult committing to shots. The rounds we got from Will Starke, Will Murphy and Ben Dietrich really helped us out. We look forward to the next couple of days and the challenges ahead.”

Starke, whose 69 was one off his career low, is tied for the lead with Radford’s Nick Brediger, who also fired a 69 on Sunday. A native of Chapin, S.C., Starke has had success before at Turtle Point after finishing runner-up in the event last season. He played his best golf of the day on the front nine as he recorded four birdies and no bogeys to make the turn at 4-under. Starke carded his only bogeys of the day on the 11th and 15th holes but was able to get one of those strokes back with a birdie on No. 17 to finish the round tied atop the leaderboard.

Dietrich, who is tied for third, made the turn at even after making a pair of birdies and a pair of bogeys on the front side. He caught fire to start the back nine as he birdied three of his first four holes to get to 3-under on the day. However, a double bogey on the par-3 14th dropped him back to 1-under. After making two straight pars, Dietrich birdied No. 17 and made par on 18 to get into the clubhouse with a 70.

A native of Columbia, S.C., Murphy wrapped up the day in a tie for sixth. He registered one birdie on each side and had just one blemish on his scorecard, a bogey on No. 17 that left him sitting just outside the top five.

Junior Caleb Sturgeon, who won the event last year, bounced back from an inauspicious start to shoot a 1-over 73 as he closed out the round in a tie for 17th. The Laurens, S.C., native made double bogeys on the par-5 second and the par-5 fifth to fall to 4-over early on. However, he played the final 13 holes at 3-under without a bogey to climb into the top-20.

Rounding out the lineup, sophomore Matt NeSmith shot a 3-over 75 to finish the afternoon in a tie for 34th. Senior Alan King, who is playing as an individual, carded a 77 (+5) in his first tournament as a Gamecock and is in a tie for 53rd.

Presbyterian, Charleston Southern and Marquette are nine strokes back of South Carolina in a tie for third after shooting a 292 (+5) on Sunday.

The Gamecocks will be paired with Charleston Southern and Radford for the second round on Monday and will begin teeing off the 10th tee at 9:25 a.m. Live scoring will be available HERE.

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTST1. Will Starke (3)      69 (-3)T3. Ben Dietrich (5)        70 (-2)T6. Will Murphy (4)      71 (-1)T17. Caleb Sturgeon (1)       73 (+1)T34. Matt NeSmith (2)           75 (+3)*T53. Alan King            77 (+5)*Playing as an individual
TEAM STANDINGS1. South Carolina 283 (-5)2. Radford 291 (+3)T3. Presbyterian College 292 (+4)T3. Charleston Southern 292 (+4)T3. Marquette 292 (+4)T6. Towson 295 (+7)T6. Winthrop 295 (+7)8. USC Upstate 297 (+9)T9. Western Kentucky U. 299 (+11)T9. Missouri 299 (+11)11. Elon 300 (+12)12. Richmond 301 (+13)13. Wisconsin 305 (+17)14. Jacksonville St. 306 (+18)15. Minnesota 309 (+21)16. Creighton 312 (+24)17. Campbell 316 (+28)18. George Washington U. 321 (+33)