April 20, 2013
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- With just 18 holes left to play at the SEC Championship, the South Carolina men's golf team holds a three-shot lead after firing a 4-under 276 in the second round on Saturday at Sea Island Golf Club.
The Gamecocks wrapped up the day with a 36-hole total of 555 (-5), which is three strokes better than second-ranked Alabama (558). Carolina is also in position to bring home medalist honors, as sophomore Caleb Sturgeon carded a 3-under 67 to build a four-shot lead with a total of 132 (-8). Arkansas' Sebastian Cappelen, Mississippi State's Chad Ramey and Alabama's Cory Whitsett are all tied for second with a total of 136 (-4).
With the program's first SEC Championship on the line, South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald couldn't be more pleased with how well his team is playing heading into Sunday.
"It was another great day for us. I'm so proud of these guys and how patient they have been around this demanding golf course. We could have fist pumped a little more today," McDonald joked. "But other than that it was a great team effort all around."
After shooting a 279 (-1) to open the championship on Friday, Carolina kept its momentum going as it got to as low as 6-under on Saturday before finishing up with a 276 (-4), which is the program's lowest round ever at the SEC Championship, besting the 2008 squad's round of 278.
Sturgeon was on top of his game again on Saturday after shooting a 65 (-5) in the opening round. He fell to 1-over after a bogey on No. 3. He bounced back nicely with birdies on holes four, five and eight as he made the turn with a 2-under 33. After recorded birdies on the 10th and 13th holes to get to 4-under, he made par on the next four holes before closing out his day with a bogey on No. 18.
A native of Laurens, S.C., Sturgeon is looking to become the Gamecocks' second individual SEC Champion. Eric Ecker won Carolina's first individual title at the rain-shortened event in 1998 in Athens, Ga.
"Caleb has played two incredible rounds," McDonald said. "He probably hit the ball better today than yesterday. He is really putting well, and his confidence with his game is the best I have seen it."
The Gamecocks have three other golfers in contention for top-20 finishes. Freshman Matt NeSmith is in a tie for fifth with a total of 139 (-1). Senior Dykes Harbin is tied for eighth with a total of 140, and sophomore Sean Kelly is tied for 22nd with a total of 144 (+4).
NeSmith, who entered the weekend with four straight top-10 finishes, carded a 70 (E) on Saturday. After two bogeys and a birdie on the front nine, he recorded one birdie and eight pars on the back side to head into the clubhouse at even par.
Harbin played a very steady round, making only two bogeys and tallying a birdie on the par-4 18th to close out the afternoon.
Kelly bounced back from Friday's 76 with a season-low 68 (-2) on Saturday. He made it through the round without a blemish on his scorecard as he recorded birdies on the sixth and 15th holes to go along with 16 pars.
Rounding out the lineup, freshman Will Starke turned in a 75 (+5) to finish the round in a tie for 64th with a total of 154 (+14).
Auburn is in third with a total of 564 (+4), followed by Texas A&M (566) and Georgia (570).
The Gamecocks will begin teeing off in the final round on Sunday at 9:10 a.m. and will be paired with Alabama and Auburn. Live scoring will be available through Golfstat.
SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS 1. Caleb Sturgeon (2) 65-67=132 (-8) T5. Matt NeSmith (3) 69-70=139 (-1) T8. Dykes Harbin (1) 69-71=140 (E) T22. Sean Kelly (4) 76-68=144 (+4) T64. Will Starke (5) 79-75=154 (+14)
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