April 20, 2017
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - South Carolina opens up play at the 2017 SEC Championship at Sea Island Golf Club on Friday morning. First round action begins at 7:20 a.m. This marks the 17th year for the Southeastern Conference Championship to be contested on the Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course. The SEC has conducted its annual championship on St. Simons Island since 2001 (Seaside Course 2001-2007, 2010-2016; Frederica Golf Club 2008-2009). Since 1927, the Sea Island Golf Club has enjoyed a legacy as one of America's premier golf clubs.
The 2017 event will mark the first in which the championship will extend to a fourth day, with Match Play on Sunday, April 23 and Monday, April 24. Three rounds of stroke play will occur the opening two days of the championship. Rated No. 1 in the U.S. among the "World's 50 Best Golf Hotels" by Golf Digest Index, Sea Island Golf Club offers three exceptional 18-hole championship courses. The Seaside Course, home to the PGA TOUR's McGladrey Classic, is a links course graced by majestic ocean vistas in the tradition of St. Andrews.
Junior Keenan Huskey and sophomore Scott Stevens will be the only Gamecocks in the lineup with SEC Championship experience under their belts. They finished T-38th and T-49th respectively last season. The duo who played all season on South Carolina's 2015-16 squad that advanced to match play at the NCAA Championship, has been one of the best in the league all season. Huskey's 70.38 scoring average is 5th in the SEC. He's T-11th in the Golfstat player rankings. Stevens' 70.72 scoring average is 10th in the SEC. He's 12th in the Golfstat SEC player rankings.
Freshman Jamie Wilson, sophomore Ryan Stachler and sophomore Will Miles will all be making their debuts at the conference tournament. Wilson has been playing outstanding golf in the spring. He's been named SEC Freshman of the Week twice and had a career-best T-5th finish at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate, which the Gamecocks won.
HISTORY AT THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
In 11 appearances under McDonald at the SEC Championship, the Gamecocks have finished in the top-five on five different occasions, including runner-up honors in 2008, 2013 and 2015. Since joing the league in 1992, Carolina has had 11 top-five finishes with four-runner up showings at the conference tournament.
Matt NeSmith (2015) and Eric Ecker (1998) are the only two Gamecocks to take home medalist honors at the SEC Championship. NeSmith set the 54-hole program scoring record with a 196 (-14). He shot 65, 64 and 67 en route to the title.
Keenan Huskey and Scott Stevens will be making their second career appearances at the Southeastern Conference Championship. Last season in their debuts at the conference meet, Huskey finished T-38th (223, +13) and Stevens T-49th (224, +14).
It's been another outstanding season for the SEC, one of the nation's elite conferences in NCAA Division I men's golf. 12 of the 14 teams in the field this week are ranked in the top-50 of the latest Golfstat rankings. Eight of the 14 teams are ranked in the top-30. Seven schools are ranked in the latest GCAA Coaches Poll.
Three of the last four NCAA titles belong to the Southeastern Conference (Alabama 2013-14, LSU 2015). Three SEC teams (South Carolina, LSU and Vanderbilt) made the match play portion of the NCAA Championship last season, the most schools of any conference.
RECAPPING THE SPRING
The Gamecocks had four top-five finishes in six events during the spring slate, highlighted by the team's first win of the season at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate March 26-28 in Awendaw, S.C. Carolina, who won the tournament for the third-straight season, shot 844 (-20). Keenan Huskey (T-3rd) and Jamie Wilson (T-5th) paced the Gamecocks with top-five individual finishes.
Huskey led Carolina with a 70.30 18-hole scoring average in the spring. Sophomore Scott Stevens was second on the team with a 71.53 average. The duo combined to shoot 20 rounds in the 60s and 34 rounds (17 each) of par or better during the 2016-17 regular season. Huskey had three top-five finishes, while Stevens had two runner-up medalist showings.
Wilson, who took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice, has been in the lineup every tournament this spring. He's posted a 72.47 scoring average in the team's six spring events. His 10 rounds of par or better and four rounds in the 60s rank third on the team.
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 19. 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 2017 Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate on March 28. It was the team's first win of the 2016-17 season and its third straight year bringing home the team title at Bulls Bay Golf Club.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
Carolina will await its postseason fate as the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship Selection Show takes place at noon on Friday, May 5 live on the Golf Channel. Six 54-hole regional tournaments will be conducted May 15-17 at various sites across the country. Thirteen teams and ten individuals not on those teams will compete at each of three regionals while the other three regionals will have 14 teams and five individuals not on those teams. The low five teams and the low individual not on those teams from each regional will advance to the finals.
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