Gamecocks Florida Bound For Valspar Collegiate |
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina men’s golf continues its busy March with the Valspar Collegiate Invitational, which begins on Sunday with the opening round at Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, Fla. It’ll be the Gamecocks first tournament of two for the week, as they compete in the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate March 26-28.
“It’s been a short but productive week in preparation for The Valspar,” said head coach Bill McDonald. “The primer productivity we’ve applied to our practice base coat layer has been solid. I feel confident this team’s sheen will be tested against one of the most colorful and broad spectrum fields in collegiate golf.”
HISTORY AT VALSPAR COLLEGIATE INVITATIONAL
The Gamecocks will be making their third appearance all-time at the Valspar Collegiate Invitational. In its first appearance in 2015, Carolina shot 841 (-11) and finished third in the 13-team field. Three Gamecocks finished in the top-20, led by Matt NeSmith’s T-6th finish at 3-under. Will Starke tied the 18-hole school record with an 8-under 63 in the final round.
Last season, South Carolina T-5th in a loaded field after shooting 874 (+22). NeSmith again paced the Gamecocks with a T-5th finish at even par. Scott Stevens T-10th at 2-over and Keenan Huskey T-25th at 7-over.
Last season, the Valspar Collegiate Invitational was South Carolina’s toughest tournament of the regular season, as all 15 teams in the field were ranked in the top-50 by Golfstat and 30 of the nation’s top-100 players via Golfstat competed in the event.
It’ll be another solid field this season, as nine of the 13 teams this year are ranked in Golfstat’s Top-50 team rankings. Five teams are in the top-25, headlined by No. 10 Wake Forest who won the General Hackler Championship last weekend. No. 12 LSU, No. 14 Texas A&M No. 23 Arkansas join the Gamecocks as the three SEC teams in the field.
RECAPPING THE FALL
South Carolina finished in the top-five in three of its four fall events. The team took 10th (875, +11) at the Carpet Capital Collegiate on Sept. 9-11, fifth at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate (839, -13) on Sept. 23-25, second at the Camden Collegiate Invitational (859, +19) on Oct. 22-23 and fifth at the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic (840, -12) on Nov. 4-6.
Sophomore Scott Stevens and junior Keenan Huskey, Carolina’s two returnees from the team’s magical NCAA run last spring, paced the Gamecocks throughout the fall season. Stevens finished the fall with a 69.58 stroke average, three tiop-10 individual finishes, eight rounds at par or better and six rounds in the 60s. His best individual finish was at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate, when he earned runner-up medalist honors after shooting 198 (-15). The low tally was the third-best 54-hole score in program history.
Huskey finished just behind Stevens with a 69.67 stroke average. He finished in the top-20 individually in all four of the team’s events this fall, highlighted by a runner-up medalist finish at the Camden Collegiate Classic. The Greenville, S.C., native, shot in the 60s five times this fall and played eight rounds at par or better. Huskey shot 64 twice this fall, in the second round at the Maui Jim and the second round at Camden. The two 64s tied for the fourth lowest 18-hole scores in program history.
South Carolina finished the fall slate as the only school in the country with two golfers in the top-10 for scoring average. Stevens tied for 6th with his 69.58 stroke average and Huskey tied for ninth with his 69.67 stroke average.
RECAPPING THE 2015-16 SEASON
South Carolina advanced to its fourth straight NCAA Championship after a second place finish at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional behind SEC foe Georgia. At the NCAA Championship, the Gamecocks sat in 14th place heading into the final round of stroke play.
The team finished seventh after shooting a final round 277 (-3) to advance to the match play portion of the event for the first time in school history. The seventh-place finish was the team’s highest ever in stroke play at the NCAA Championship. In match play, the Gamecocks fell to eventual national runner-up Illinois, 4-1. Then-freshman Scott Stevens earned the lone point for the Gamecocks.
Three of the five players from Carolina’s NCAA Championship squad, Sean Kelly, Matt NeSmith and Will Starke, have graduated and moved on to the Canadian PGA Tour. Huskey and Stevens return for the Gamecocks this season. The team’s final Golfstat ranking was 10th, marking the second-straight top-10 finish for the program.
Gamecock head coach Bill McDonald is the winningest coach by tournament victories in school history with 18. McDonald broke the previous record of nine held by Puggy Blackmon (1995-2007) with Carolina’s win at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in September 2014. McDonald captured a school-record five wins in 2014-15 and snagged his latest victory at the 2016 Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
It’ll be another short week for Carolina, as they have a quick turnaround for the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate on March 26-28 in Awendaw, S.C. The Gamecocks have won the team title at the event the last two seasons. Carolina won the event with a score of 841 (-23) as all five golfers in the lineup finished in the top-10, marking the second time the team accomplished the feat in 2015-16. Keenan Huskey earned medalist honors last year, notching his second win of the season. He joined elite company with his 11-under finish, becoming just the eighth Gamecock in program history to tally two or more wins in a single season.