March 22, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Coming off a 19-stroke victory at the Seahawk Intercollegiate, the South Carolina men’s golf team will look to keep the momentum going this week at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate in Awendaw, S.C.
The 54-hole event runs Sunday through Tuesday at the par-72, 7,282-yard Bulls Bay Golf Club. The Gamecocks have the opportunity to make a little history during the trip. Carolina has won three tournaments already this season and would tie the school record with a win at Bulls Bay, matching the mark set by the 1990-91 and 2008-09 teams. The Gamecocks have also finished third or better in six-straight events, and another top-three finish this week would be the best stretch in school history.
South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald has been proud of the way his team continues to improve tournament by tournament.
“It’s been a heck of a run,” McDonald said. “The golf we played in Wilmington (at the Seahawk Intercollegiate) and the conditions we had to battle through was really unbelievable. I’ve never been more proud of a team than I was on Sunday at Wilmington. This team has been a lot of fun to coach, and we’ve got a lot our goals in front of us. I’m really proud of the point they’ve gotten us to so far this year. We’ve got another opportunity in front of us this week at the Hootie.”
In the only three tournaments the lineup has consisted of juniors Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy, sophomores Matt NeSmith and Will Starke and freshman Ben Dietrich, the Gamecocks have come home with a tournament title. After winning with those five golfers last week, Carolina will field the same five in Awendaw this week, with Starke at No. 1, NeSmith at No. 2, Murphy at No. 3, Sturgeon at No. 4 and Dietrich at No. 5.
Of the 15 teams in this week’s field, five are ranked in the Golfstat Top 50, including the Gamecocks at No. 24. Virginia is the highest-ranked team at No. 10. The Cavaliers have finished runner-up twice this season and won the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate in October. No. 30 Auburn, No. 36 Kentucky and No. 39 Wake Forest are also ranked in the top 50, while USC Aiken is the fifth-ranked team in Division II. Akron, Charleston Southern, College of Charleston, Duke, GRU Augusta, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest round out the field. The Gamecocks have a 10-4 head-to-head record this season against teams in this field.
South Carolina helped organize the inaugural event in 2005 and is making its 10th-straight appearance at the tournament. The Gamecocks have four top-five appearances in their nine previous trips to Awendaw, including runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2008. South Carolina’s best individual finisher at the event was George Bryan IV, who claimed second in 2009 with a total of 201 (-12).
The Gamecocks claimed ninth place at last year’s Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate with a total of 905 (+41). NeSmith led the way with a tie for seventh finish, posting a total of 219 (+3). Murphy and Sturgeon, who are both in the lineup again this year, finished tied for 58th and tied for 67th, respectively.
First-round play is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Live scoring will be available through GOLFSTAT.