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March 9, 2014

Tournament NotesGet Acrobat Reader

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina men’s golf team is set to open play at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate on Monday in Aiken, S.C.

The Gamecocks will play 36 holes on Monday and 18 on Tuesday on the par-70, 6,695-yard setup at the historic Palmetto Golf Club, which is recognized as the fourth oldest golf course in the nation.

After finishing third at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships to open the spring, the Gamecocks will look to keep the success going with the same lineup in Aiken. Sophomore Matt NeSmith will play as the team’s No. 1 golfer, followed by junior Caleb Sturgeon, junior Will Murphy, junior Blaine Woodruff and sophomore Will Starke.

The third-place finish at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships was South Carolina’s fourth-straight finish of third or better this season, including two wins. It matches last year’s stretch of four consecutive top-three finishes as the most by a Gamecock team since finishing third or better in six straight events during the spring schedule of 1999.

“We gave ourselves a chance to contend for the title,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “I saw a lot of good things. I think to have five guys within two shots of each other for the event is a good sign and shows that everyone is playing at a fairly high level.”

South Carolina will face another solid field in Aiken. The 18-team field consists of five teams ranked in the Golfstat Top 50, including the Gamecocks at No. 26. Virginia is the highest-ranked team at No. 7. The Cavaliers enter their first spring event with a win and a runner-up finish on their resume from the fall. Carolina will also compete against rival Clemson, the 31st-ranked team in the country. No. 36 Liberty and host USC Aiken, the ninth-ranked team in Division II, round out the top 50 teams at the event. Akron, Chattanooga, Elon, Francis Marion, Furman, Georgia Regents, Georgia State, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Penn, Presbyterian and Wofford round out the field.

The Gamecocks are making their third-straight appearance at the Palmetto Intercollegiate and fifth overall. Carolina has had plenty of success at the event, finishing no worse than third in any of its previous appearances. The Gamecocks finished runner-up last season, third in 2012, first in 2004 and third in 2003. Carolina has also had an individual place in the top five each year, including NeSmith’s tie for third finish last year and Erik Johansen winning medalist honors in 2004.

McDonald believes several things factor into the program’s success at the Palmetto Intercollegiate.

“With as many South Carolina players we have, they are familiar with the golf course,” McDonald said. “A lot of our players play in the Palmetto Amateur, which is every June and one of the top amateur events in the country. I think that familiarity and having a lot of pride in wanting to represent the program and being close to home. I think all that plays into us playing well there.”

The teams will tee off on Monday with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Live scoring will not be available for the event.