May 28, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C — The sixth-ranked South Carolina men’s golf team is among the final 30 teams playing for the national title for the third-straight year. Play begins at the NCAA Championship on Friday and runs through Wednesday, June 3 at the par-72, 7,483-yard layout at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. The Gamecocks punched their ticket to the championship with a second-place finish at the NCAA Bremerton Regional.
Dates: Friday, May 29-Wednesday, June 3
Location: Bradenton, Fla. â€¢ The Concession Golf Club â€¢ Par: 72 â€¢ Yards: 7,483
|Pos.||Name||Tourn.||Rds.||Avg.||Low 18||Best Finish|
Field: 30 teams (listed by seed) – 1. Florida State, 2. Texas, 3. Arizona State, 4. Illinois, 5. Vanderbilt, 6. South Carolina, 7. LSU, 8. Oregon, 9. Texas Tech, 10. Georgia Tech, 11. Stanford, 12. Oklahoma, 13. South Florida, 14. UAB, 15. Charlotte, 16. Washington, 17. Auburn, 18. UCLA, 19. Southern California, 20. Oklahoma State, 21. Virginia, 22. SMU, 23. TCU, 24. San Diego State, 25. UNLV, 26. Georgia, 27. Houston, 28. Clemson, 29. Florida, 30. Duke
Carolina’s First-Round Tee Time: 12:40 p.m. off the first tee (Paired with Illinois, Vanderbilt)
Live Scoring: Golfstat
All 30 teams and six individuals in the field will play 54 holes of stroke play. Following the first three rounds, the field will be cut to the top 15 teams and top nine individuals not on those teams for a fourth round of stroke play to determine the top eight teams for match play and the 72-hole individual champion. The top eight teams will compete in match play the final two days of the championship.
Carolina History at The NCAA Championship
The Gamecocks are making their third-straight trip to the NCAA Championship and their 19th all-time. Carolina’s 19 appearances are the seventh most among SEC schools. The Gamecocks posted their best finish at the national championship in 1988, finishing tied for eighth at North Ranch Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., with a total of 1,186, which is the fourth lowest 72-hole total in school history. Carolina has one other top-10 finish at the NCAA Championship, a ninth-place finish last year at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. The Gamecocks just missed top-10 finishes in 1998 (11th) and 2007 (T-11th), with the 2007 squad setting the school record for 72 holes with a total of 1,136. Former All-American Fred Wadsworth recorded Carolina’s highest individual finish at the NCAA Championship in 1984, finishing tied for ninth at Bear Creek Golf World in Houston, Texas. (See page 7 for complete NCAA Championship history)
A Look Back at the 2014 NCAA Championship
South Carolina posted the second best finish in program history at the NCAA Championship in 2014, finishing ninth with a total of 846 (+6), which is the best 54-hole NCAA Championship total in school history. The Gamecocks held the lead after shooting an 8-under 272 in the first round, the lowest round at the NCAA Championship in school history. Will Starke led individually after one round as he fired a 6-under 64, which is also the lowest round at the NCAA Championship in program history. After falling down the leaderboard during the next two rounds, Carolina climbed back to as high as tied for fifth on the back nine in the final round but eventually finished one shot back of eighth place. Will Murphy was Carolina’s highest finisher a year ago as he tied for 15th with a total of 208 (-2) to earn PING honorable mention All-America honors.
Breaking Down the Field
South Carolina is one of 30 teams set to play for the national title this week at The Concession Golf Club. Carolina is one of six SEC teams to make the field. All 30 teams in the championship field are ranked in the top 50 of the Golfstat Relative Rankings, including 20 in the top 25. Seven of the eight teams that advanced to match play a year ago made it back to the championship this season, including runner-up Oklahoma State. Fourth-ranked Illinois, No. 7 Stanford, No. 9 LSU, No. 12 Georgia Tech, No. 17 UCLA and No. 21 SMU are also back in the field after making match play last year. Top-ranked Florida State, Texas, Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Oregon, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, South Florida, UAB, Charlotte, Washington, Auburn, Southern California, Virginia, TCU, San Diego State, UNLV, Georgia, Houston, Clemson, Florida and Duke make up the rest of the field. The Gamecocks have competed against 22 of the 30 teams in the field at least once this season and have a 33-13-1 head-to-head record against those teams.
About the Course
Consistently named one of America’s toughest golf courses, The Concession was designed in honor of Jack Nicklaus conceding a putt to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 Ryder Cup, which ended the competition in a tie. The Concession is an award-winning Jack Nicklaus Signature Course designed in association with Jacklin, with each hole running in a different direction around wetlands, 150-foot pines and 200-year-old oaks. Named the Best New Private Course of 2006 by Golf Digest, The Concession will feature a par-72, 7,483-yard layout for the NCAA Championship.
Three of the five golfers in South Carolina’s lineup are making their third NCAA Championship appearance. Senior Caleb Sturgeon and juniors Matt NeSmith and Will Starke played at the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Championships. Senior Will Murphy and junior Sean Kelly are making their second national championship appearance. Kelly played at the 2013 NCAA Championship, while Murphy was in the lineup a year ago.
Gamecock Lineup at the NCAA ChampionshipSean Kelly2013 (Milton, Ga.) 73-76-74=223 T-144th
Will Murphy2014 (Hutchinson, Kan.) 70-69-69=208 T-15th
Matt NeSmith2013 (Milton, Ga.) 70-75-66=211 T-38th2014 (Hutchinson, Kan.) 77-74-77=228 T-141st
Will Starke2013 (Milton, Ga.) 70-75-74=219 T-116th2014 (Hutchinson, Kan.) 64-78-72=214 T-55th
Caleb Sturgeon2013 (Milton, Ga.) 73-75-72=220 T-128th2014 (Hutchinson, Kan.) 66-71-73=210 T-29th
Golf Channel Stepping UP Its Coverage
The Golf Channel is dedicating all of its production resources for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships this year. There will be 25 combined hours of live tournament coverage and more than 50 hours of primetime replays, and Golf Central will provide 25 hours or pre-tournament and post-tournament news coverage on location. Daily news updates will also be provided on Morning Drive and at GolfChannel.com.
Lanny Wadkins will be the lead analyst for the men’s championship, while Bob Papa will be the play-by-play commentator for both championships. Curt Byrum will serve as the tower announcer, while Notah Begay, Billy Ray Brown and Phil Parkin will be the on-course reporters. Steve Burkowski will also be on site as the Golf Channel’s College Insider.
Live tournament coverage will be provided Monday, June 1 (4-7 p.m.), Tuesday, June 2 (10:30-12:30 p.m., 3:30-7 p.m.) and Wednesday, June 3 (3-7 p.m.).
Three-Straight Trips to the National Championship
The Gamecocks are making their third-straight appearance at the NCAA Championship. Carolina is one of only four SEC schools and 13 schools nationally to earn a trip to the NCAA Championship each of the last three years. Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Texas, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Washington, UCLA and Southern California also punched their tickets to the 2013, 2014 and 2015 NCAA Championships.
10 and Counting
The Gamecocks have finished in the top five in a school-record 10-straight events, with nine being top-three showings. The 10 top-five finishes this season is also the school record for the most in a single season. Carolina has finished in the top five in 19 of its last 23 events dating back to last season, including eight tournament wins.
The Gamecocks have won a school-record five tournament titles this season, including three during the spring schedule. Carolina set the record by shooting a final-round 271 (-17) to capture the Hootie at Bulls Bay title on March 31 with a total of 838 (-26).
Built to Finish
Carolina has held the 36-hole lead in three tournaments this season and went on to win the tournament title each time. The Gamecocks held on to win the Bayou City Collegiate Championship on Feb. 22 by two strokes, the Palmetto Intercollegiate on March 10 by one stroke over rival Clemson and the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate on March 31 by 11 strokes.
Saving the Best for Last
The Gamecocks have had their most success in the final round this season, posting an average of 278.4. Carolina has shot under par eight times on the final day, including 271 (-17) to win at Hootie at Bulls Bay and 274 (-14) to finish second at the NCAA Bremerton Regional. The Gamecocks have a season average of 283.8 in the first round and 280.8 in the second round.
Back Nine Accountability
Gamecock head coach Bill McDonald has stressed back nine accountability to his squad this season, and the Gamecocks have responded, especially at the NCAA Bremerton Regional. As a team, Carolina combined to shoot 13-under on the final nine holes at Gold Mountain Golf Club’s Olympic Course, including 18 birdies. The four Gamecocks whose scores counted – Matt NeSmith (32), Will Starke (32), Will Murphy (32) and Caleb Sturgeon (33) – combined to shoot 15-under on the back nine without making a bogey.
Junior Matt NeSmith won medalist honors at the SEC Championship by six strokes, posting a school-record 54-hole total of 196 (-14) at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course. He joined Eric Ecker (1998) as the only Gamecock golfers to win an SEC title. He also became the first Gamecock to win consecutive events since Carl Paulson won the PING Intercollegiate (4/11/93) and the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate (4/25/93) back-to-back in 1993.
NeSmith, Starke Garner first-team all-SEC Honors
Carolina juniors Matt NeSmith and Will Starke earned first-team All-SEC honors. The selection marks the third-straight year NeSmith has been named to an All-SEC team, while this is Starke’s first All-SEC honor. NeSmith was named to the second team last year and received Co-SEC Freshman of the Year and All-Freshman Team honors in 2013. This also marks the first time two Gamecocks have been on the first team since 2008, when Mark Anderson and George Bryan IV received first-team honors. NeSmith became just the second Gamecock to win an SEC title as he claimed a six-stroke victory at the SEC Championship with a school-record 54-hole total of 196 (-14). He has finished in the top 20 in eight of 11 events this season, including two tournament wins. Starke has finished in the top 15 in nine of 11 events this season, including six top fives and a tournament win. His six top-five finishes are tied for the most in a single season in school history
Keeping it Under Par
The Gamecocks’ team scoring average of 281.00 is on pace to shatter the school single-season mark of 287.46 set by last year’s squad. Carolina’s average leads the SEC. The Gamecocks have shot under par as a team in 21 rounds this season.
Season Scoring Average - Team Year Rds. Strokes Avg.1. 2014-15 30 8,430 281.002. 2013-14 35 10,061 287.463. 2009-10 31 8,919 287.704. 2007-08 32 9,256 289.255. 1997-98 39 11,292 289.54
Taking Over the Single-Season Scoring Average List
Four Gamecocks’ stroke averages currently rank in the top 10 in school history for a single season. Will Starke’s average of 70.03 ranks first, while Matt NeSmith is not far behind in second with an average of 70.06. Will Murphy ranks fourth with an average of 71.70, and Caleb Sturgeon is tied for seventh with an average of 72.00.
Season Scoring Average - Individual1. Will Starke (2015) 70.032. Matt NeSmith (2015) 70.063. George Bryan IV (2010) 71.354. Will Murphy (2015) 71.705. Kyle Thompson (2001) 71.836. Webb Heintzelman (1984) 71.977. Caleb Sturgeon (2015) 72.00 Mark Anderson (2008) 72.009. Paul Woodbury (2010) 72.0610. Wesley Bryan (2010) 72.12
Racking up top-fives
Will Starke has recorded six top-five finishes this season, which is tied for the most in a single season in school history with Kyle Thompson, who tallied six top-five finishes in 1998-99.
Single-Season Top 5s1. Will Starke 2014-15 6 Kyle Thompson 1998-99 62. David Seawell 1993-94 5 Carl Paulson 1992-93 5 W. Heintzelman 1983-84 5
Rewriting the Career records
Seniors Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy and juniors Will Starke and Matt NeSmith continue to climb up South Carolina’s career scoring average list. NeSmith currently ranks first all-time with an average of 71.69, while Starke isn’t far behind in second with an average of 71.77. Sturgeon ranks fourth all-time with an average of 72.79, while Murphy is sixth with an average of 72.93. Starke also has 11 career top-five finishes, which is tied for the third most all-time at Carolina with George Bryan IV (2006-10). His 14 career top-10 finishes are tied for seventh all-time at South Carolina. NeSmith is tied for the fifth all-time in career top-five finishes (9) and is tied for fourth in top-10 finishes (17).
Career Scoring Average(Min. 60 Rounds & Two Years)1. Matt NeSmith (2012-present) 71.692. Will Starke (2012-present) 71.773. George Bryan IV (2006-10) 72.374. Caleb Sturgeon (2011-present) 72.795. Kyle Thompson (1997-00) 72.816. Will Murphy (2011-present) 72.937. David Seawell (1993-96) 73.058. Eirik Johansen (2002-06) 73.129. Mark Silvers III (2005-09) 73.1510. Wesley Bryan (2008-2012) 73.23
Career Top-5 Finishes1. Kyle Thompson 1997-2000 14 David Seawell 1993-96 143. Will Starke 2012-present 11 George Bryan IV 2006-10 115. Matt NeSmith 2012-present 9 Eirik Johansen 2002-06 9
Career Top-10 Finishes1. Kyle Thompson 1997-2000 222. Eirik Johansen 2002-06 20 David Seawell 1993-96 204. Matt NeSmith 2012-present 17 George Bryan IV 2006-10 176. Eric Ecker 1996-2000 167. Will Starke 2012-present 14 Carl Paulson 1989-93 149. Wesley Bryan 2008-12 12 Brett Quigley 1987-91 12
Protecting the Palmetto State
Carolina has played in three tournaments in South Carolina this season and won all three titles. The Gamecocks won the Camden Collegiate Invitational (Camden, S.C.), the Palmetto Intercollegiate (Aiken, S.C.) and the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C.).
Three Straight a First
The Gamecocks became the first team in Carolina history to win three straight tournaments with their victory at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. Carolina won the Camden Collegiate Invitational to close out the fall and opened the spring with a win at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship before winning the Palmetto.
The Gamecocks rank first in the SEC in tournament wins (5) and in team scoring average (281.00). Carolina also has four golfers in the top 25 in the SEC in scoring average, as Will Starke ranks fourth (70.03), Matt NeSmith ranks fifth (70.06), Will Murphy ranks 16th (71.70) and Caleb Sturgeon ranks 24th (72.00).
Gamecock head coach Bill McDonald is the winningest coach by tournament victories in school history with 14. McDonald broke the previous record of nine held by Puggy Blackmon (1995-2007) with Carolina’s win at the Carpet Capital Collegiate this fall. The Gamecocks then gave McDonald his 11th tournament title with a win at the Camden Collegiate Invitational to close out the fall. Carolina opened the spring by winning the Bayou City Collegiate Championship and then won the Palmetto Intercollegiate. Carolina set the school record for wins in a season by claiming its fifth tournament title with a win at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate to close out the regular season.
Consensus Top 10
The Gamecocks have consistently been ranked in the top 25 in the golf rankings the last two seasons but they enter the NCAA Championship a consensus top-10 team. Carolina is currently ranked No. 6 in the Golfstat Relative Rankings, No. 6 in the Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Poll and No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
Gamecocks in the Golfstat Statistics Rankings
As a team South Carolina ranks second in the nation in average score (71.40) and fourth versus par (+0.11). The Gamecocks are fourth in par-3 scoring (3.12), second in par-4 scoring (4.05) and 10th in par-5 scoring (4.75). Carolina is tied for seventh in eagles (21) and ranks 12th in subpar strokes per round (3.50). Individually, junior Will Starke tied for eighth nationally in scoring average (70.03), ranks 12th versus par (-1.24), 18th in par-4 scoring (3.99), 12th in par-5 scoring (4.59), tied for first in eagles (10) and 11th in subpar strokes per round (4.42). Junior Matt NeSmith ranks 10th in scoring average (70.06), 13th versus par (-1.21), 15th in par-3 scoring (3.03) and tied for seventh in par-4 scoring (3.95).
Among the Best in the World
South Carolina senior Will Murphy and junior Matt NeSmith are ranked in the top 50 in the latest Golfweek/Amateurgolf.com World Player Rankings. Murphy is No. 29 in the world and No. 17 in the U.S., while NeSmith is No. 46 in the world and No. 25 in the U.S. In the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings, NeSmith is ranked No. 47, Murphy is ranked No. 50 and junior Will Starke is No. 66.
South Carolina’s roster is made up of 10 golfers, including two true freshmen, one sophomore, four juniors and three seniors. Seven of the 10 golfers are from the Palmetto state, with the other three hailing from Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. A total of six golfers have NCAA Championship experience.