March 2, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina men's golf team will return to the links on Sunday in the first round of the USF Invitational in Dade City, Fla.
The Gamecocks will play in the three-day tournament at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, which features a par-72, 7,060-yard layout. South Carolina will look to continue its streak of success after finishing third last week at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships. The Gamecocks have now finished first and third in its last two tournaments, making it the program's best two-tournament stretch since finishing tied for first and first at the Mason Rudolph Championship and the Rees Jones Invitational in back-to-back events in the fall of 2009.
South Carolina associate head coach Don Hill is anxious to see the Gamecocks back in action after improving steadily every round last week.
"We got better every day," Hill said. "Being our first team event of the spring, we were a little bit all over the map, especially through the first 27 holes. I think we were anywhere from first to 15th and even back to second at one time. To finish third against a quality field, we felt very positive coming home. It was a really good experience for this golf team, playing two freshmen and two sophomores. It gives us a lot to build on this spring."
The top four Gamecock finishers from the Bayou City Collegiate Championships will be back on the course on Sunday. Senior Dykes Harbin, sophomores Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy and freshman Matt NeSmith return to the lineup, while junior Caulder Moore moves into the fifth spot to play in his third team tournament of the season.
Murphy and Sturgeon, who tied for eighth to lead the way at the Bayou City Collegiate Championships with a total of 214 (-2), are second and third on the team in scoring this season with averages of 73.17 and 73.67, respectively. The duo has combined for six top-20 finishes, including four top-10 showings. Harbin has the top honors with a stroke average of 72.53 and four top-20 finishes, which has him in the top 100 of the Golfstat player rankings at No. 85. NeSmith is making his sixth appearance of the year after posting an average of 74.27 and recording three top-20 finishes in the first five events, and Moore has a 75.44 average after playing in two team events and one individual tournament.
The No. 43 Gamecocks will compete against 16 teams in Dade City, including two ranked in the Golfstat Top 50. No. 16 Florida State and No. 49 Kentucky highlight the field, which also includes Cincinnati, DePaul, Eastern Michigan, Kennesaw State, Louisville, Marquette, Mercer, Middle Tennessee State, NC State, Rice, South Florida, Troy, Virginia and Wisconsin. South Carolina has already played against six teams in the field and has a 6-2-1 record against those teams. The tournament will also feature two of the top golfers in the country according to Golfstat in Florida State's Daniel Berger (No. 7) and North Carolina State's Albin Choi (No. 9).
"We do have a big field this week with 17 teams," Hill said. "So there's a good chance to get a lot of wins. With the .500 rule that we have in place, that's always something that's in the back of your mind, but we don't focus on it. There are some real good teams. From an individual standpoint, it will be good for the guys to play against some top-notch individuals, and we really hope to play well."
First-round play will begin on Sunday a 9 a.m. Live scoring is available here.
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