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SPURS & FEATHERS: Past, present and future of Gamecock men's golf making noise
Men's Golf  . 

SPURS & FEATHERS: Past, present and future of Gamecock men's golf making noise

June 9, 2016

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2015-16 Schedule
Dates Event Finish
9/11-13 Carpet Capital Collegiate
Rocky Face, Ga.
3rd of 15
9/28-29 Shoal Creek Invitational
Birmingham, Ala.
6th of 12
10/18-20 Tavistock Collegiate Invitational
Orlando, Fla.
9th of 15
10/24-25 Camden Collegiate Invitational
Camden, S.C.
1st of 11
11/6-8 Ka’anapali Classic Collegiate Invitational
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
5th of 19
2/19-21 All-American Intercollegiate
Humble, Texas
3rd of 16
3/7-8 Palmetto Intercollegiate
Aiken, S.C.
1st of 18
3/12-13 General Hackler Championship
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
1st of 15
3/21-22 Valspar Collegiate Invitational
Palm City, Fla.
T-5th of 15
4/3-5 Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate
Awendaw, S.C.
1st of 15
4/15-17 SEC Championship
St. Simons Island, Ga.
10th of 14
5/16-18 NCAA Regionals
Tuscaloosa, Ala.
2nd of 13
5/27-6/1 NCAA Championship
Eugene, Ore.
7th of 30

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina men’s golf head coach Bill McDonald knows that his golfers join the program for many reasons, but he also knows at the end of the day the goal is simple.

“It’s every kid’s dream that pretty much comes through the program to play professional golf,” McDonald muses.

And that’s what South Carolina men’s golf can provide.

South Carolina men’s golf has long been a program with golfers making their way to the professional ranks, but of late particularly, the professional tours are now littered with Gamecock greats.

In fact, two Palmetto State products and Gamecock greats are playing in the PGA TOUR FedEx St. Jude Classic June 9-12 in Memphis, Tennessee in 2016 first-team All-American Matt NeSmith (North Augusta, South Carolina) and current Tour money list leader Wesley Bryan (Chapin, South Carolina). It is the first PGA TOUR starts for both, and with two wins on the this year, Bryan is already assured of a PGA TOUR card next year.

“Matt and Wesley are walking around here on cloud nine this week,” McDonald said while talking with Spurs & Feathers from Memphis. “It’s ‘The Show.’ There’s nothing like ‘The Show.'”

Golf is like many other professional sports in that one has to ply their trade at lower levels to make it to ‘The Show’ on the PGA TOUR, and with playing professional golf such a part of Gamecock men’s golf the upward ascension was never more evident than on May 31.

Shortly after the Gamecocks bowed out of the 2016 NCAA Division I Championship on Tuesday, May 31, all three Gamecock seniors at the championship in Sean Kelly, NeSmith and Will Starke were quickly on their way to playing professional golf.

“We lose to Illinois at like 11 a.m. in the morning and by like 5 p.m. that afternoon they’re on a flight from Portland to the Canadian Tour (Mackenzie Tour event June 2-5 in Victoria, British Columbia),” McDonald said. “It was really tough sending them off like that, but at the same time it was an incredible run with those guys. They were a lot of fun to coach.”

That trio of now professional golfers were a big part of a historic 2015-16 season for South Carolina men’s golf that saw the Gamecocks as noted make it to match play at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship for the first time in program history. The Gamecocks picked up four tournament wins over the course of the season, which is tied for second-best in program history.

On the whole, McDonald was incredibly proud of what his team was able to accomplish this past season.

“We hit a lot of our goals this year,” McDonald said. “We won some events and making it to match play was obviously a huge goal for us. It was bittersweet in the sense that it was a milestone for our program in a lot of ways, but it really hurt to be in all five matches (and not win in a national quarterfinal 4-1 loss to Illinois). I think we had one of the more competitive matches of the entire championship.”

Going forward into the 2016-17 season, McDonald knows he has another strong group in the fold, and that was more than evident recently with rising sophomore Ryan Stachler earning a spot in the 116th U.S. Open that will be contested June 16-19 at Oakmont Country Club in Plum, Pennsylvania.

Stachler finished second during a sectional qualifier at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course to capture a spot in the second major of the year. The Alpharetta, Georgia native carded a 36-hole score of 8-under 136 to give the Gamecocks a current Gamecock in the U.S. Open for the second straight year. NeSmith qualified last year for the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington.

Stachler’s spot in this year’s U.S. Open speaks emphatically to the depth of South Carolina men’s golf as this past season he played in only four events for the Gamecocks.

“Ryan’s one of those kids, especially in the spring, that you could really see some of the hard work he was doing start to pay off,” McDonald said. “We just didn’t have enough spots (during the year). (Rising sophomore) Will Miles was much in the same boat too. (Ryan’s) a great kid, and he didn’t get down on himself, and he fought through the pain of not being able to play (for South Carolina). It’s awesome for him. It’s going to be a great experience for him.”

In general, McDonald knows that the future is going to continue to be bright for Gamecock men’s golf with golfers like Stachler, rising junior Keenan Huskey, Miles and (rising sophomore) Scott Stevens returning for example, but he also knows the 2016-17 season is going to see some growing pains with the amount of youth on the roster.

“We’re still going to be pretty young overall,” McDonald said. “What’s exciting though is that you are seeing a talent level that’s at a pretty high standard I think. I don’t want to put any great expectations on those kids. They’ve got a lot to live up to if they start looking at what some of these guys before them have done.”

McDonald knows though it’s a pretty special time to be a part of Gamecock men’s golf with all of the great things going on with the past, present and future of the program.

“It gives your program a little validation of maybe you’re doing some things the right way,” McDonald said.