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April 25, 2014

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Behind a career-low 65 (-5) from sophomore Matt NeSmith and a 66 (-4) from junior Will Murphy, the South Carolina men’s golf team shot an opening-round 277 (-3) at the SEC Championship on Friday at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course.

The Gamecocks played through strong winds throughout the round to finish the afternoon in a tie for third with Georgia and are just five strokes back of top-ranked Alabama for the lead. The Crimson Tide, the defending SEC and national champion, carded a 272 (-8). South Carolina’s 277 is the second lowest round at the SEC Championship in school history.

“I’m so proud of them,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “When we teed off, the wind really kicked up. The groups that went out earlier than us got to play seven to nine holes without any wind. The next thing you know it’s like the fan just turned on. With the way the wind was blowing and the direction it was coming out of, we didn’t get off to that great of a start. But then they fought their tails off on the back nine, and the rounds that Matt had and Murphy had are great. We are still in this tournament.”

NeSmith’s 65 is tied for the lowest ever by a Gamecock at the SEC Championship, matching teammate Caleb Sturgeon’s 65 from last year’s opening round. He is tied with Alabama’s Bobby Wyatt for the lead. A native of North Augusta, S.C., NeSmith played a near flawless round, recording just one bogey on the afternoon and six birdies. He birdied three out of his final five holes.

“I played pretty well,” NeSmith said. “I didn¹t do anything super great and I didn’t do anything bad. I just played really solid. I hit a lot of solid shots and was able to make a couple of putts when I needed to. I just didn’t make it hard on myself. I didn’t have to struggle for anything. I made one bogey because I hit a little bit of a bad drive, and the wind got it and put it in a bad spot. Other than that I played great.”

Murphy, who closed out the day in a tie for third, made the turn at even par after tallying three birdies and three bogeys on the front side. However, he made a run up the leaderboard on the back nine as he recorded just one bogey and five birdies, including four straight from holes 14 through 17.

Freshman Ben Dietrich carded a 2-over 72 to finish the round in a tie for 31st. He recorded three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey for his round.

Sophomore Will Starke shot a 4-over 74 and is tied for 50th, while Sturgeon rounded out the lineup in 64th place after shooting a 77 (+7).

Auburn is two strokes back of Alabama in second place after shooting a 274 (-6), followed by the Gamecocks and Bulldogs at 3-under. Arkansas rounds out the top five after posting an even-par 280.

The Gamecocks will tee off in the second round on Saturday beginning at 8:20 a.m. off the first tee. Carolina will be paired with Arkansas and LSU. Live scoring will be available at

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTST1. Matt NeSmith (1)        65 (-5)T3. Will Murphy (4)      66 (-4)T31. Ben Dietrich (5)       72 (+2)T50. Will Starke (2)     74 (+4)64. Caleb Sturgeon (3)        77 (+7)
TEAM STANDINGS1. Alabama 272 (-8)2. Auburn 274 (-6)T3. Georgia 277 (-3)T3. South Carolina 277 (-3)5. Arkansas 280 (E)6. LSU 284 (+4)T7. Kentucky 287 (+7)T7. Mississippi State 287 (+7)T9. Missouri 288 (+8)T9. Vanderbilt 288 (+8)T9. Texas A&M 288 (+8)12. Tennessee 289 (+9)T13. Mississippi 292 (+12)T13. Florida 292 (+12)