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Feb. 20, 2014

Tournament NotesGet Acrobat Reader | Live Scoring

COLUMBIA, S.C. — After winning back-to-back tournaments to close out the fall, the South Carolina men’s golf team will attempt to keep the momentum going as it opens its spring schedule this weekend at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships.

The 54-hole event is scheduled to run Friday through Sunday at the par-72, 6,982-yard Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas.

The Gamecocks are coming off one of their most successful fall seasons in school history, which included winning two consecutive events and a runner-up finish. Following a 10th-place finish to open the year at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, South Carolina tied for second at the Rees Jones Invitational, won the Badger Invitational by 24 strokes and won the Wendy’s Kiawah Classic by 22 strokes. Head coach Bill McDonald said his team is looking forward to getting back on the course in a tournament setting.

“I think for a variety of factors we are excited to play,” McDonald said. “One is the weather. It’s just been pretty tough on us the last month or so. I know the guys are anxious to just play some golf. November seems like a long time ago when we last played and won down at Kiawah. I do believe winning those last two events of the fall gave us a lot of confidence. By all accounts it looks like everyone has done a good job over break and worked really hard on their games. We are looking forward to a really good spring.”

South Carolina will be playing for its third-straight tournament title this weekend. If the Gamecocks accomplish the feat, they will be the first South Carolina team of record to do so. It would also mark just the fourth time a Gamecock team has won three tournaments in the same season, joining the 1981-82, 2003-04 and 2008-09 squads. The school record for wins in a season is four, which was accomplished by the 1990-91 and 2008-09 teams.

The top four positions in South Carolina’s lineup will be filled with golfers who played in all four tournaments in the fall. Sophomore Matt NeSmith will compete as the Gamecocks’ No. 1, followed by junior Caleb Sturgeon, sophomore Will Starke and junior Will Murphy. Junior Blaine Woodruff will play as the No. 5, making his third tournament appearance of the season.

NeSmith leads the team with a stroke average of 72.25 and has placed in the top 10 in seven of the last eight regular-season events dating back to last spring. A native of Laurens, S.C., Sturgeon won his second career tournament title in the fall, claiming medalist honors at the Badger Invitational with a total of 206 (-10). He ranks second on the squad in scoring with an average of 72.75. Starke, who has a pair of top-five finishes this season, is third on the team with a scoring average of 73.58, while Murphy is fourth with an average of 74.33 and has one top-10 showing. Woodruff is coming off a tie for third finish at the Savannah Quarters Intercollegiate.

South Carolina is making its second appearance at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships. The Gamecocks finished third in their first visit to the event last season. Sturgeon and Murphy finished tied for eighth at 2-under to lead the way.

The 29th-ranked Gamecocks will face a stiff challenge at the Golf Club of Houston. The 15-team field consists of six teams ranked in the Golfstat Top 50, including four in the top 25. South Florida enters the weekend as the highest ranked team at No. 14. The Bulls recorded one tournament win and a pair of runner-up finishes in the fall. Tournament host Houston is ranked 15th, while SEC foe Arkansas is No. 19. Texas, the 2012 national champion, is also in the top 25 at No. 21. No. 31 Baylor, Charlotte, Houston Baptist, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Rice and UTSA round out the field.

South Carolina is slated to tee off in the first round off hole No. 10 on Friday at 10 a.m. ET and will be paired with Arkansas and Baylor. Live scoring will be available all three days through GOLFSTAT.