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Nov. 5, 2013

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — The South Carolina men’s golf team closed out its fall schedule in dominant fashion on Tuesday, claiming its second-straight Wendy’s Kiawah Classic title by 22 strokes at Turtle Point Golf Club.

The Gamecocks pose with the Wendy’s Kiawah Classic trophy on Tuesday.

The Gamecocks, who won last year’s tournament by 20 strokes, posted a final-round 295 (+7) to finish the week with a three-round total of 864 (E) to secure their second-consecutive tournament title of the fall. It marks the first time the program has won consecutive events since winning the Turtle Bay Intercollegiate (11/4/03) and the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship (2/10/04) back-to-back during the 2003-04 season.

Four out of the five golfers in South Carolina’s lineup finished the week in the top 15, with sophomore Matt NeSmith leading the way. The North Augusta, S.C., native fired a final-round 68 (-4) to finish runner-up with a total of 212 (-4). It’s the fifth top-five finish of his career, which moves him into a tie for ninth all-time at South Carolina in career top-five finishes. Sophomore Will Starke (T-4th), freshman Ben Dietrich (12th) and junior Caleb Sturgeon (T-13th) also finished the week in the top 15. Junior Will Murphy just missed a top-20 finish as he tied for 21st.

“We struggled a little today and maybe lost our focus somewhat with the big lead, but overall it was a great team effort,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “Matt played some incredible golf the past two days, and his round today carried us. It’s a nice way to finish the fall, and I’m really proud of this team for their effort. We have a lot of work to do in the offseason, but I feel like this team could really accomplish some special things this spring if they put their minds to it.”

NeSmith got off to a solid start as he birdied three of his first five holes to quickly get to 3-under on the day. He then hit a rough stretch with back-to-back bogeys on the seventh and eighth holes and another bogey the par-5 10th to fall back to even. After a par at the 11th, NeSmith was impressive down the stretch as he made three-straight birdies on holes 12, 13 and 14 and finished his round with a birdie on No. 18 to secure his second-place finish.

Starke recorded his third career top-five showing as he shot a 77 (+5) on Tuesday to finish tied for fourth with a total of 216 (E). A native of Chapin, S.C., Starke struggled early, recording two bogeys and a double bogey to fall to 4-over through his first five holes. However, he regrouped and played solid golf the rest of the way, playing the final 13 holes at 1-over.

Dietrich carded a final-round 74 (+2) to earn his first career top-20 finish with a total of 220 (+4). The Bluffton, S.C., native wrapped up his round with four birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.

A native of Laurens, S.C., Sturgeon posted a 77 (+5) on Tuesday to finish the event with a total of 221 (+5). He tallied a pair of birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey on the afternoon to earn his 13th career top-20 finish. Murphy turned in a final-round 76 (+4) to conclude the week with a score of 223 (+7), missing out on his seventh career top-20 finish by a stroke. Murphy, a native of Columbia, S.C., played the front nine at even par before making a quadruple bogey to start the back nine. He then played the final eight holes at even par to get into the clubhouse at 4-over.

Senior Alan King, who made his Gamecock debut as an individual, finished tied for 76th with a total of 237 (+21) after shooting a final-round 85 (+13).

Marquette finished runner-up with a total of 886 (+22), followed by Winthrop (887), Missouri (888) and Presbyterian (890). Marquette’s Nick Nelson claimed medalist honors with a total of 210 (-6).

South Carolina will now head into winter workouts with its focus on getting ready for the spring schedule. The Gamecocks will open the spring on Feb. 21 at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships in Houston, Texas. South Carolina claimed third at the event last season.

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS2. Matt NeSmith (2)     75-69-68=212 (-4)T4. Will Starke (3)      69-70-77=216 (E)12. Ben Dietrich (5)        70-76-74=220 (+4)T13. Caleb Sturgeon (1)       73-71-77=221 (+5)T21. Will Murphy (4)     71-76-76=223 (+7)*T76. Alan King            77-75-85=237 (+21)*Played as an individual
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS1. South Carolina 283-286-295=864 (E)2. Marquette 292-296-298=886 (+22)3. Winthrop 295-298-294=887 (+23)4. Missouri 299-293-296=888 (+24)5. Presbyterian College 292-297-301=890 (+26)6. Charleston Southern 292-302-297=891 (+27)7. Radford 291-305-299=895 (+31)8. USC Upstate 297-305-297=899 (+35)9. Wisconsin 305-296-301=902 (+38)10. Minnesota 309-297-298=904 (+40)11. Elon 300-298-307=905 (+41)12. Towson 295-301-310=906 (+42)13. Jacksonville St. 306-303-298=907 (+43)14. Campbell 316-302-291=909 (+45)15. Richmond 301-314-296=911 (+47)16. Western Kentucky U. 299-310-312=921 (+57)17. Creighton 312-313-308=933 (+69)18. George Washington U. 321-310-308=939 (+75)