May 14, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 22nd-ranked South Carolina men’s golf team will play for a second-straight berth to the NCAA Championship this week at the NCAA Eugene Regional in Eugene, Ore.
The Gamecocks received the No. 4 seed and will compete against 12 teams at the par-70, 6,990-yard Eugene Country Club from Thursday through Saturday. The top five teams and the low individual not on those teams will advance to the NCAA Championship, which will be held on May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
“The guys are really pumped up,” South Carolina assistant coach Alex Hamilton said. “It’s a good trip for us. We got to play a great golf course on Tuesday in Columbia Edgewater and got in a good practice round today. The guys are excited for the opportunity.”
South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald will look to get the Gamecocks back to the NCAA Championship with the same lineup he had at the SEC Championship. Sophomore Matt NeSmith will play as the Gamecocks’ No. 1, followed by junior Will Murphy, sophomore Will Starke, junior Caleb Sturgeon and freshman Ben Dietrich.
NeSmith, a second-team All-SEC selection, leads the team and ranks 13th in the SEC with a stroke average of 71.66, which is currently the second lowest single-season average in program history. He has produced a team-high seven top-20 finishes, and his four top-five showings are tied for the fifth most in a single season at South Carolina.
Murphy, who finished tied for fifth to lead the Gamecocks at the SEC Championship, has four top-20 finishes and is third on the team with a stroke average of 72.55. Starke is tied for the team lead with four top-five finishes and is second on the squad with a scoring average of 72.28. Sturgeon, who is making his third NCAA regional appearance for the Gamecocks, has four top-20 showings on the season, including one win, and a stroke average of 73.14. Dietrich has recorded four top-20 finishes in eight events and has a scoring average of 73.77.
South Carolina is one of 13 teams in the NCAA Eugene Regional field. Eight of the 13 teams are ranked in the Golfstat Top 50, including four in the top 25. Third-ranked Stanford is the No. 1 seed. The Cardinal won five tournaments this season, including the Pac-12 Championship. Houston is the No. 2 seed, followed by Oklahoma, the Gamecocks, Baylor, Liberty, Oregon, Tennessee, North Florida, East Tennessee State, Chattanooga, Wichita State and Northern Colorado. Liberty, Wichita State and Northern Colorado all earned automatic bids for winning their conference championship. The Gamecocks have competed against seven teams in the field at least once this season and have a 10-3 head-to-head record against those teams.
South Carolina is making its 22nd NCAA Regional appearance and its 17th in the last 18 years. The Gamecocks will be looking to advance to the NCAA Championship for the second-straight year and the 18th time overall. South Carolina has captured one regional title all-time, winning the 2007 West Regional at the ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz. Four Gamecocks finished in the top 20 that year, with George Bryan IV finishing tied for 10th and Mark Anderson and Florian Fritsch tying for 18th. South Carolina has also finished runner-up on three occasions, finishing second in 1999 and 2009 and tied for second in 2013. Individually, Kyle Thompson finished first outright in 1999 and tied for first in 2001.
The Gamecocks came up just short of winning their second regional last year, finishing tied for second at the NCAA Columbus Regional at the Ohio State University Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio. South Carolina posted a 54-hole total of 872 (+20) to finish two strokes back of New Mexico (870) for the title. NeSmith tied for second to lead the way with a total of 214 (+1), while Starke tied for ninth with a total of 217 (+4).
South Carolina will tee off beginning at 8:20 a.m. on Thursday on the 10th tee and will be paired with Baylor and Liberty. Live scoring will be available all three days through GOLFSTAT.