The 2023 Class of the USC Association of Lettermen’s Hall of Fame will be inducted on Thursday, October 12. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets!
Growing up in Minnesota, Eric Ecker once dreamed of playing hockey at the University of Minnesota. Fortunately, he also played golf, and now he is one of eight inductees for the 2023 Class of the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame after a stellar career for the Gamecocks from 1995-2000.
“I played golf in the summer, so as soon as courses were open, we played non-stop,” said Ecker, who now lives in Springfield, Missouri and works in transportation management for FLS Transportation. “I had a really good junior career and was fortunate enough to get on the radar at South Carolina. Golf just started really taking off for me, so from then on, I was full-on with golf.”
Ecker helped the Gamecocks climb to as high as number three in the national rankings. As a sophomore, he helped the Gamecocks to the 1998 Southeastern Conference title, earned first-team All-SEC honors and was an All-American. As a junior in 1999, he again earned first-team All-SEC and All-America honors and was selected for the US/Japan Cup matches. As a senior in 2000, he earned second-team All-SEC honors and finished his collegiate career playing in the most competitive rounds in USC school history. He garnered 26 Top-10 finishes throughout his collegiate career and posted a career scoring average of 72.1, and now he can add “Hall of Famer” to his accolades.
“I was obviously surprised when I found out, but at the same time, super proud not only of what I did at South Carolina as an individual athlete, but after reflecting back on the team, it was one of the best experiences of my life,” Ecker said. “I still draw on some of those things today. Puggy (Blackmon) was outstanding as a coach.”
“Our team was really good. Puggy changed the trajectory of the program. To be a part of his first class was really special to me.”
Ecker redshirted as a freshman, and that turned out to be good for him.
“It was a bit of a challenge for me, not knowing anybody and just trying to find my way. I wasn’t breaking the top five in the lineup, and Puggy took the pressure off by redshirting me. That helped me learn how to be on my own and how to play better competition. That led me to really growing physically and mentally.
“Our team was really good. Puggy changed the trajectory of the program. To be a part of his first class was really special to me. We had a lot of really good things going on. It was so fun and rewarding. All of us had different upbringings from different parts of the world. It was a really neat experience.”
After graduation, Ecker played on some professional tours and then started focusing on his career after golf.
“Professional golf probably wasn’t going to happen for me, but I don’t have any regrets about it. We traveled a ton in college. We were always gone. The balance of being a student-athlete was difficult at times but parlaying that time management into a real job wasn’t that difficult.”
Ecker still plays in local tournaments and enjoys the game even if it’s just for fun.
“The game for me is in my blood and is always going to be there,” Ecker said. “Golf has opened a lot of other doors for me, so I still use that to my advantage whenever I can.”
Ecker and his wife Libby (Howard), who also played golf at South Carolina, have two children, Ella and Eli, who are both in high school. As he gets set for his return to campus for Hall of Fame Weekend, Ecker is looking forward to seeing familiar faces.
“A handful of my teammates are coming in. It will be great to see Puggy. We stay in contact. He always said that he takes an interest in what you’re doing post-golf because he understands that he only has us for four to five years. He’s done that! He has followed through on that promise, and that’s really cool. It will be great to reminisce and see all the updates the school has made.”