March 23, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina men's golf team will look to continue its streak of success on Sunday as it opens play in the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate.
The Gamecocks will play 54 holes during the three-day event on a par-72, 7,282-yard layout at Bulls Bay Golf Club in Awendaw, S.C. Carolina enters the tournament with momentum on its side after stringing together four straight top-three finishes, including a runner-up showing at the Palmetto Intercollegiate last week. It marks the first time a Gamecock squad has recorded four consecutive top-three finishes since the 1999 team placed third or better in six straight events.
"It all started with our last event of the fall," South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. "We gained some confidence winning at Kiawah to end the fall. We had a very productive winter break and came out playing really well this spring. The biggest thing I've noticed with this team is even though we have had our typical ups and downs of any college golf round, they have been able to fight through some adversity and hang in there. That's the key in college golf. We've played in some tough conditions and on some tough golf courses in the last three events, and I'm really proud of how they've been fighting."
The lineup will remain the same for South Carolina for the third straight week, as senior Dykes Harbin, sophomore Caleb Sturgeon, freshman Matt NeSmith, sophomore Will Murphy and junior Caulder Moore will tee it up in Awendaw. Harbin, Sturgeon, NeSmith and Murphy have combined to recorded 18 top-20 finishes at team events this season. Moore won a competitive qualifier on Thursday to earn the fifth spot for the third tournament in a row. With this lineup the Gamecocks have finished runner-up in their last two events, with Harbin (T-2nd), NeSmith (T-10th, T-3rd) and Sturgeon (10th) each earning top-10 finishes.
"That nucleus of Dykes Harbin, Caleb Sturgeon, Matt NeSmith and Will Murphy has pretty much been a part of our lineup all year," McDonald said. "And Caulder is starting to play well. (Bulls Bay) is his home golf course, so we are looking for good things out of him this week. We are going to be battling some pretty tough conditions. It looks like the weather is going to be bad on Sunday, and then we will have cool, windy conditions on Monday and Tuesday."
South Carolina helped organize the inaugural Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate in 2005 and will be making its ninth straight appearance at the tournament. Carolina has recorded four top-five finishes in the eight previous appearances, including a runner-up finish in both 2006 and 2008. George Bryan IV holds the distinction of being the highest individual finisher for the Gamecocks at the event as he finished runner-up in 2009 with a total of 201 (-12).
At last year's tournament, the Gamecocks shot a final-round 296 to move up three spots and finish sixth with a total of 877 (+13). Harbin and Sturgeon were South Carolina's top finishers as they finished in a tie for 19th with a total of 219. Blaine Woodruff and Murphy just missed top-20 finishes as they tied for 25th and 29th, respectively.
This year's field is as strong as any in recent history as 10 of the 15 teams are ranked in the Golfstat Top 50. Eleventh-ranked Duke highlights the field along with No. 15 LSU. Defending tournament champion Auburn (No. 21), No. 23 Clemson, No. 26 Texas A&M, No. 28 Wake Forest, No. 36 Missouri, No. 48 North Carolina State and No. 50 Augusta State join the 32nd-ranked Gamecocks as teams entering the event in the top 50. College of Charleston, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest round out the field. South Carolina has competed against 11 teams in the field this season and has compiled a 10-5-1 head-to-head record against those teams.
First-round play is scheduled to get underway on Sunday at 10 a.m. Live scoring will be available through Golfstat.
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