May 18, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The 20th-ranked South Carolina men's golf team punched its ticket to the NCAA Championship on Saturday afternoon as it tied for second place at the NCAA Columbus Regional at the Ohio State University Golf Club.
The Gamecocks posted a final-round 288 (+4) to wrap up the week in a tie with Auburn with a total of 872 (+20), earning their first championship trip since 2009 and the program's 17th all-time. Carolina fell two strokes shy of regional champion New Mexico. The top-seeded Lobos finished first with a total of 870 (+18). This year's NCAA Championship will be held May 28 through June 2 at the Capital City Club in Atlanta, Ga.
"What a great week for our program," South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. "The guys really showed some strong character today and played a very good round under extreme pressure. Matt NeSmith's round was incredible, and Dykes Harbin showed how great a leader he is with his play. Now on to Atlanta!"
NeSmith, the SEC Freshman of the Year, made a charge up the leaderboard to lead the way on Saturday. The North Augusta, S.C., native fired a 3-under 68 to climb 14 spots to finish in a tie for second with a total of 214 (+1). NeSmith now has seven top-10 finishes on the season, which moves him into a tie with Eirik Johansen, Kyle Thompson and David Seawell for the second most in a single season in school history. He trails only Fred Wadsworth, who recorded nine top-10 finishes in the 1983-84 season. New Mexico's James Erkenbeck won medalist honors with a total of 210 (-3).
After beginning the round with three straight pars, NeSmith caught fire to birdie three of his next four holes to get to 3-under. He bogeyed the par-3 eighth to drop back to 2-under but gained the stroke back with a birdie on the 10th. He got to as low as 4-under on the day with a birdie on No. 14 before bogeying the 15th and 17th holes. However, he closed things out with his sixth birdie of the day on No. 18 to wrap up the round at 3-under.
Freshman Will Starke also played a key role in getting the Gamecocks to Atlanta as he finished in a tie for ninth with a total of 217 (+4). He posted a final-round 76 (+5) that included one birdie, four bogeys and a double bogey.
Harbin and sophomore Caleb Sturgeon saved their best round of the week for last as they both carded a 1-over 72 on Saturday. Harbin finished the tournament in a tie for 43rd with a total of 225 (+12), while Sturgeon tied for 25th with a total of 222 (+9).
After playing a very steady front nine that included just one bogey, Harbin made par on the first three holes on the back side before bogeying the par-3 13th to drop to 2-over. He responded with a birdie on No. 15 but gave the stroke right back with another bogey on the 16th. He then recorded a par on No. 17 and closed out his round in strong fashion with a birdie on the par-4 18th.
Sturgeon had an up and down front nine as he began the day with back-to-back bogeys. He scrapped his way back to even par with a birdie on the fourth and sixth holes but gave a stroke back with a bogey on the seventh on his way to making the turn with a 37 (+1). Although he was unable to record a birdie on the back nine, he made it through the side without a blemish, tallying nine consecutive pars to get into the clubhouse at 1-over.
Sophomore Sean Kelly turned in a final-round 77 (+6) to conclude the event in a tie for 48th with a total of 226 (+13). Kelly recorded one birdie, five bogeys and a double bogey on the afternoon.
UNLV claimed fourth place with a total of 878 (+26), and Texas Tech took fifth with a total of 879 (+27) to join the Gamecocks, New Mexico and Auburn in advancing to the NCAA Championship.
The NCAA Championship will feature three days of stroke play before the 30-team field is cut down to eight teams for three days of match play.
SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS T2. Matt NeSmith (3) 75-71-68=214 (+1) T9. Will Starke (5) 68-73-76=217 (+4) T25. Caleb Sturgeon (2) 75-75-72=222 (+9) T43. Dykes Harbin (1) 73-80-72=225 (+12) T48. Sean Kelly (4) 72-77-77=226 (+13)
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