April 21, 2013
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The South Carolina men's golf team made a stellar run at the program's first SEC title on Sunday but it came up just short, finishing runner-up by two strokes to second-ranked Alabama at the 2013 SEC Championship with a total of 850 (+10) at Sea Island Golf Club.
The Gamecocks, who shot a final-round 295 (+15), entered the day with a three-shot lead over the Crimson Tide, but Alabama posted a 290 (+10) to win the title with a 54-hole total of 848 (+8).
With just one group left on the course, the teams entered the final three holes tied at 8-over par. Carolina sophomore Caleb Sturgeon triple bogeyed the 16th but bounced back to make par on the 17th and a birdie on No. 18 to give the Gamecocks a chance. However, Alabama's Corey Whitsett finished with a birdie, a par and a bogey to secure the title for the Crimson Tide.
"I was really proud of the guys this week," said South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald, whose team posted the lowest 54-hole SEC Championship score in school history. "They gave us a chance to win arguably the best conference championship in the country. It was exciting all the way to the end. I really think it will be good for us going forward into regionals having gone through that kind of tough setting."
Sturgeon played one of the best tournaments of his career as he carded a final-round 73 (+3) to finish runner-up in the individual standings with a total of 205 (-5), which was three strokes back of Arkansas' Sebastian Cappelen (202). His total is the second lowest 54-hole SEC Championship score in school history, ranking behind only George Bryan IV's total of 204 at the 2010 event.
A native of Laurens, S.C., Sturgeon recorded two birdies and three bogeys on the front nine to make the turn at 1-over. He got his round back to even par with a birdie on the par-3 12th but gave the stroke back on the next hole with a bogey on No. 13. After two consecutive pars, he triple bogeyed the par-4 16th before recording par on the 17th and birdie on No. 18 to conclude the afternoon at 3-over.
"He played great from start to finish and made one bad golf swing all week on 16 that cost him three shots," McDonald said. "He carried the team for the most part. I was really proud of him. He showed a lot of character when he came back and made par and birdie after making the triple on 16. A runner-up finish in this conference is nothing to be ashamed of. It should give him a lot of confidence going forward."
Senior Dykes Harbin had a solid weekend in his final SEC Championship appearance as he claimed his fourth top-10 finish of the season, finishing tied for seventh with a total of 212 (+2). He carded a final-round 72 (+2), which included two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.
Making his SEC Championship debut, freshman Matt NeSmith struggled to a 79 (+9) in the final round but managed to come away with a tie for 20th finish with a total of 218 (+8). It is his eighth top-20 finish of the season.
Sophomore Sean Kelly just missed sneaking into the top 20 as he shot a final-round 75 (+5) to wrap up the weekend in a tie for 23rd with a total of 219 (+9). Rounding out the lineup, freshman Will Starke finished in a tie for 63rd with a total of 229 (+19) after turning in a 75 (+5) on Sunday.
Auburn finished third in the team standings with a total of 860 (+20), followed by Texas A&M (864) and Mississippi State (866).
The Gamecocks will now wait for the NCAA Regional pairings to be announced on May 6. Carolina will be selected to compete in one of the following regionals: Baton Rouge, La., Tallahassee, Fla., Columbus, Ohio, Fayetteville, Ark., Pullman, Wash., or Tempe, Ariz.
SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS 2. Caleb Sturgeon (2) 65-67-73=205 (-5) T7. Dykes Harbin (1) 69-71-72=212 (+2) T20. Matt NeSmith (3) 69-70-79=218 (+8) T23. Sean Kelly (4) 76-68-75=219 (+9) T63. Will Starke (5) 79-75-75=229 (+19)
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