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May 17, 2014

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EUGENE, Ore. — The fourth-seeded South Carolina men’s golf team punched its ticket to the NCAA Championship for a second-straight year with a fifth-place finish in the NCAA Eugene Regional at Eugene Country Club on Saturday.

The Gamecocks shot a final-round 301 (+21) to wrap up the week with a 54-hole total of 880 (+40), finishing five strokes ahead of North Florida and Chattanooga for the fifth and final spot to the NCAA Championship. South Carolina will be making a second-consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship for the first time since advancing back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.

“It was just a really tough day for our kids,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “There was a lot of pressure on these guys, about as much pressure as they are ever going to feel in college golf. Trying to advance through regional play with the way we do things is just a very difficult thing to do. I’m extremely proud of the guys. It was just an extremely tough day, and thank goodness we found a way to pull it out at the end.”

The course was a tremendous challenge for the entire field on Saturday, as just three golfers turned in rounds under par and only one team was below 10-over par. The average score for the round was more than five strokes over par at 75.52.

Sophomore Will Starke earned his second-straight top-20 finish at a regional as he shot a final-round 77 (+7) to tie for 16th with a total of 217 (+7). Starke came up big down the stretch, sinking a birdie putt on the par-4 17th to help the Gamecocks create some separation coming into the clubhouse.

Freshman Ben Dietrich finished the week in a tie for 22nd with a total of 220 (+10) after shooting a final-round 75 (+5). Dietrich made a huge impact on the final result on the par-4 18th, hitting his approach shot to within five feet and then sinking the putt for birdie.

Junior Caleb Sturgeon saved his best round of the week for Saturday when the Gamecocks needed it the most. A native of Laurens, S.C., Sturgeon posted a solid 2-over 72 to finish the week in a tie for 22nd with a total of 220 (+10). He played the front side at even par with one birdie and one bogey and turned in a 2-over 38 on the back nine with two bogeys and seven pars.

Sophomore Matt NeSmith carded a 77 (+7) on Saturday to finish tied for 36th with a total of 223 (+13). Rounding out the lineup, junior Will Murphy turned in an 82 (+12) to finish 58th with a total of 230 (+20).

Top-seeded Stanford held off host Oregon to win the regional with a total of 853 (+13). The Ducks finished second with a total of 854 (+14), followed by Oklahoma (860) and Houston (875). Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers earned medalist honors with a total of 204 (-6).

The Gamecocks will open play at the NCAA Championship on May 23 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. A total of 30 teams will play three days of stroke play (May 23-25) before the field is cut to eight teams for two days of match play (May 27-28). The top 40 individuals and ties will compete in a fourth day of stroke play on May 26 to determine the individual national champion. The Golf Channel will air live coverage of the event on May 26-28.

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTST16. Will Starke (3)     68-72-77=217 (+7)T22. Caleb Sturgeon (4)       74-74-72=220 (+10)T22. Ben Dietrich (5)       72-73-75=220 (+10)T36. Matt NeSmith (1)       72-74-77=223 (+13)58. Will Murphy (2)      74-74-82=230 (+20)
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS1. Stanford 276-282-295=853 (+13)2. Oregon 289-280-285=854 (+14)3. Oklahoma 280-287-293=860 (+20)4. Houston 290-293-292=875 (+35)5. South Carolina 286-293-301=880 (+40)T6. North Florida 286-297-302=885 (+45)T6. Chattanooga 295-292-298=885 (+45)T8. Liberty 295-297-297=889 (+49)T8. ETSU 296-293-300=889 (+49)10. Baylor 294-304-295=893 (+53)11. Tennessee 299-292-303=894 (+54)12. Wichita State 295-312-304=911 (+71)13. Northern Colorado 307-304-311=922 (+82)