March 15, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After a one-year absence, the South Carolina men's golf team will tee off at the Chris Schenkel Invitational for the 30th time on Friday in Statesboro, Ga.
The 54-hole event runs through Sunday at Forest Heights Country Club.
The Gamecocks have had plenty of success at the event over the years with nine top-five finishes, including a win in 2009. Carolina has posted four straight top-five finishes heading into Friday, and South Carolina associate head coach Don Hill believes the Gamecocks have the potential to keep that streak alive this weekend.
"It's going to be a great experience for us," Hill said. "I suspect we will keep playing well if we keep doing what we've been doing, which is chipping and putting the golf ball like we are supposed to and making good decisions."
Carolina is coming off a third-place showing at the Palmetto Intercollegiate with its youngest lineup of the season, which included one senior, one junior and three freshmen. One of the newcomers, Caleb Sturgeon, posted the Gamecocks' best finish as he claimed fourth place after carding rounds of 70, 71 and 72 for a score of 213 (+3). It was the first top-five finish of Sturgeon's career and his second straight top-10 showing.
"We started off very strong and played two fine rounds of golf," Hill said. "We are really excited about how the freshmen are coming along. I felt like we gained a lot of experience and got to experience some things that we really hadn't been used to. It was really good for us."
The Gamecocks will attempt to continue their success with the same lineup this week, as senior Wesley Bryan, junior Dykes Harbin, Sturgeon and fellow freshmen Sean Kelly and Will Murphy are slated to compete. Sophomore Blaine Woodruff will play as an individual.
Carolina will compete against 13 teams at Forest Heights, including four teams ranked in the Golf World/Nike top 25 and six SEC programs. Second-ranked Auburn and No. 3 Alabama highlight the SEC contingent, which also features No. 23 Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Vanderbilt. Host Georgia Southern, Minnesota, Notre Dame, N.C. State, No. 15 North Florida, UAB and Virginia will also compete. The SEC has won six out of the last 10 Chris Schenkel Invitationals, with Auburn claiming the last two titles.
"The Chris Schenkel provides us with another opportunity to play against some great teams," Hill said. "We are taking a young lineup there, and you always have some nerves to see how freshmen react to certain situations. There are some big-time programs there, and if we are ultimately going to compete against those teams, then we have to go play against them."
The Gamecocks are paired with Virginia and Notre Dame for the first round and will tee off on hole No. 1 on Friday beginning at 9 a.m. Live results will be available at golfstatresults.com.
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