Feb. 21, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina men's golf team is set to open its spring schedule on Friday at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships in Humble, Texas.
The Gamecocks will play for their second straight tournament title during the three-day, 54-hole event, which will be contested at Redstone Golf Club.
South Carolina looks to keep its momentum going from one of the most successful fall seasons in recent program history. The Gamecocks had medalists in back-to-back tournaments for the first time since 1993, as senior Dykes Harbin won the AutoTrader.com Collegiate Classic and sophomore Caleb Sturgeon claimed the Wendy's Kiawah Classic title to close out the fall schedule. As a team South Carolina captured its first tournament title since 2009, cruising to a 20-stroke victory at the Wendy's Kiawah Classic.
The Gamecocks haven't won back-to-back team championships since the 2003-04 season, but head coach Bill McDonald has seen enough from his team in practice since the end of fall to believe Carolina's trip to Texas could be special.
"It's been a while since we've played, obviously, but I think it's been one of the most productive offseasons we've ever had," McDonald said. "The team has looked really good to me. They've taken ownership of their practice. I think they are ready to go. I'm excited about playing our first event of the spring."
South Carolina will be taking its top four finishers from the Wendy's Kiawah Classic to Redstone along with sophomore Will Murphy, who earned the fifth spot in the lineup by finishing second last week at the Savannah Quarters Individual. Sturgeon was the top finisher from the Kiawah Classic as he won medalist honors at the event. Harbin and the talented freshman duo of Matt NeSmith and Will Starke round out the lineup.
Harbin leads the team in scoring among Gamecock golfers who have played more than one tournament with a stroke average of 72.25. He claimed his first career tournament title in the fall with a first-place finish at the AutoTrader.com Collegiate Classic. In four tournaments this season, Sturgeon and NeSmith have stroke averages of 74.25 and 74.33, respectively, and a combined five top-20 finishes. Starke made his collegiate debut at the Kiawah Classic and finished second with a scoring average of 70.67.
The Gamecocks will compete against a field of 14 teams in Humble, with five of those teams ranked in the Golfstat Top 50. Third-ranked Texas headlines the field as the defending national champions. The Longhorns finished in the top four in all four tournaments in the fall but they will be without sophomore All-American Jordan Spieth, who turned pro in December. No. 34 Houston, No. 39 Baylor, No. 42 Chattanooga, No. 47 Indiana, Houston Baptist, Louisiana Tech, UT Arlington, Lamar, Rice, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Charlotte and UT San Antonio round out the field.
"This is a good field. There are a lot of teams from out west that we don't see a whole lot, but I think that's good," McDonald said. "Redstone is where they host the Shell PGA event. From everything I've heard and have seen online, it looks like a really great golf course. It will be a real good test for us."
South Carolina will open first-round play on Friday beginning at 10 a.m. CT. Live scoring will be available here.
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