June 1, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
The South Carolina men's golf team put together another solid season after advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive year this spring. Even though they did not advance out of the regional and into the NCAA Championship round for the first time since 2012, head coach Bill McDonald has a lot of reasons for optimism as his 2017 squad did not have a single senior on the roster.
"Jamie Wilson really gave us a lot as a freshman, and Caleb Proveaux did as well," McDonald said. "So we'll rely on what we have coming back a lot for next year. We'll have Will Miles and Ryan Stachler back as juniors. They both got a lot better, but still had some consistency issues. Having (rising senior) Keenan Huskey and (rising junior) Scott Stevens as All-SEC and All-Region, we'll expect a lot from them. Ben Dietrich had a really good fall, and he was a little bit off in the spring, so I know he's looking to finish out strong as a senior next year. You can look at each one and say they got better.
"There is a lot of golf to be played in the fall and next spring, but certainly there is a lot of talent, and they're great kids. They also have great parents who provide tremendous support. We're lucky to have that."
For the 2017 postseason, the Gamecocks played the SEC and NCAA Tournaments with a freshman, three sophomores and one junior in their starting five. The experience of those veterans, as well as an impressive freshman class arriving in the fall, should make for great competition heading into the next year.
"It was a good year overall," said rising senior Keenan Huskey. "We definitely got better as the year went on and saw improvements from everybody. That will be big heading into next year. We're all pretty excited about next year. We think we'll be even better than we were this year and have a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament."
"We should come back a little bit better, and we have a pretty good recruiting class coming in," McDonald said. "I think we have a chance to have a really good year again next year.
"I've learned not to put any expectations on freshmen because if you would have asked me a year ago, I would have said that Jamie Wilson was potentially a redshirt because he was a young player who needed to grow, and then he went out and played extremely well for us. I think the ones we have coming in have a chance to get in our lineup. I don't have any problem playing freshmen. I'm just trying to get the best five on the bus!"
The biggest goal for me would be for our team to make it back to match play at the NCAA Championships again next year.
McDonald hasn't had a problem loading the team bus or vans with talent during his tenure as South Carolina's head coach. He has taken the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament in 10 of his 11 years, and the team advanced to the NCAA Championship rounds six times, including a program-record four in a row from 2013-2016.
"On a personal level, this was one of the most gratifying teams to coach that I have had in all the years that I've been here," McDonald said. "We had a lot of growth from some of our younger guys, and we really started to gel. We didn't finish it out like I had wanted, but it was still a very gratifying year."
At the same time, McDonald and the Gamecocks were by no means satisfied with just getting to the NCAA Tournament.
"I just hope that everyone associated with the program is as ticked off as I am that we're watching the national championship sitting at home," McDonald quipped. "It's been a miserable week for me, so if everyone else is just as miserable, we'll be fine."
"For me as a competitive person, not making to NCAA Championships was disappointing," Huskey said. "The biggest goal for me would be for our team to make it back to match play at the NCAA Championships again next year. Doing that last year was an awesome experience. I'd like to do that again before I graduate."
Consistency will once again be a key for the Gamecocks next year. While the Gamecocks work hard on being more consistent on the golf course, the program will continue to have high expectations.
"Coach has always been loose and relaxed," Huskey said. "He tries to make things fun. I feel like that is something you don't get with a lot of other coaches."
"We give them a lot of freedom," McDonald said. "Bobby Dodd told me a long time ago when I was an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, that you can give the guys a lot of rope to hang themselves, so treat them like men until they act like boys. Certain players might need to play a lot to get better, some like to practice more to get better. So we have to give them the room to do that, and over the course of time they'll find guys on the team who operate in the same manner. They're accountable to each other and they hold each other to that standard. That's been my goal; to give them the freedom to find the things that make them better."
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