May 30, 2016
EUGENE, Ore. — A massive fourth round effort on Monday carried the University of South Carolina Men's Golf team into the match play portion of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship. The Gamecocks shot a round of 277 (-3) to finish the stroke play tournament at 1,142 (+22), good for seventh place.
As the No. 7 seed, the Gamecocks will play second-seeded Illinois in the match play quarterfinals on Tuesday morning. Matches will go off Eugene Country Club's 1st tee beginning at 7:00 a.m. PT.
Carolina was one of just three teams to break par on Monday, joining fellow match play qualifiers Illinois (-4) and Oklahoma (-3). The round was the best of the tournament for Bill McDonald's team by eight strokes. South Carolina played the back nine first, made the turn in 2-over, and then came home in 5-under.
Three Gamecocks posted a red number on Monday, including a heroic effort from Will Starke. The senior shot 66 (-4), which tied for the best individual round of the day at Eugene Country Club. Freshman Scott Stevens recorded his best round of the Championship, a 68 (-2), and Sean Kelly also went under par for the first time this week, with a 69 (-1).
The seventh-place finish is South Carolina's best ever result in the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championship. The Gamecocks set another program record for low 72-hole score with their final total of 1,142.
Though the Gamecocks were strong throughout the round, they truly separated themselves in the race to the quarterfinals with an incredible effort on the par-5 4th hole. It was the 13th hole of the day for South Carolina, and every single Gamecock was under par, including four birdies and an eagle from Kelly.
Texas was the top finisher in stroke play, at 1,134 (+14). The Longhorns will match up with eighth-seeded Oklahoma, with the winner to face victor of the match between fourth-seeded Southern California and fifth-seeded Vanderbilt. The winner of South Carolina's match with Illinois will take on either No. 3 seed LSU or No. 6 seed Oregon.
Oregon boasts the NCAA individual champion, Aaron Wise, who ended the fourth round with a score of 275 (-5).
Starke was South Carolina's top finisher for the tournament, at 284 (+4) to end the stroke play section tied for 13th. The Chapin, S.C. native was in the zone Monday, tallying five birdies. When the pressure was highest, Starke responded, finishing with four birdies in his last seven holes.
Kelly finished the stroke play tournament tied for 40th, at 289 (+9). The senior got progressively better throughout the week, posting scores of 75, 73, 72 and 69. His eagle on the 4th hole pushed the Gamecocks into the top eight, and he added two birdies on the day.
Matt NeSmith finished tied for 45th, with a score of 290 (+10). The senior shot 74 (+4) on Monday, with two birdies, including a gutsy effort on the par-4 8th hole. His birdie there, one of three on the day for South Carolina, gave the Gamecocks some much-needed cushion.
Keenan Huskey came in tied for 51st in the stroke play race, ending with a score of 291 (+11). The sophomore shot 75 (+5) on Monday, with three birdies.
Stevens ended the stroke play event in a tie for 71st, at 295 (+15). The freshman came through in the clutch Monday, with his 68 checking in as his best score of the week by six strokes. Stevens made five birdies on Monday to help the Gamecocks make match play in his first collegiate season.
Quoting Coach Bill McDonald
"(Making match play) is a tremendous accomplishment for our program, as it was for our women's program as well. But you don't have a lot of time to celebrate. We've got to great ready for tomorrow morning, and we've got to play one of the best teams in the country in Illinois."
Starke's round of 66 matches the second-lowest NCAA Championship single-round performance in South Carolina history, and it trails only the 64 that the senior shot in the first round of the 2014 Championship. Counting those two scores and his 67 on Friday in Eugene, Starke now owns three of the top six NCAA Championship rounds in Carolina history.
Up Next for the Gamecocks
South Carolina and Illinois tee off at 7:00 a.m. PT on Tuesday, with live television coverage beginning at 10:30 a.m. PT. The winner advances to the match play semifinals, which start at 1:30 p.m. PT.
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