Oct. 26, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
The faces may change, but the expectations remain the same for the South Carolina men's golf team. After reaching the Match Play round of the NCAA Championships last year, the Gamecocks graduated four seniors, including All-Americans Matt NeSmith and Will Starke. Head Coach Bill McDonald does not have any seniors on the roster this year, and although there is a lot of "newness" to the program, he still expects the Gamecocks to compete among the nation’s best.
“We’ve had quite a bit of change, but a lot of it is in a good way,” McDonald said. “Losing Sean Kelly, Will Starke, and Matt NeSmith has obviously been a hole in our first couple of events, but we’ve had some really good play from (junior) Keenan Huskey and (sophomore) Scott Stevens. We just need the other guys to step up.”
Despite not having any seniors, McDonald expects co-captains Huskey and redshirt junior Ben Dietrich to provide leadership.
“They know what the expectation is,” McDonald said. “They know what it’s like to be in a grind, to be in a regionals, and to be in contention at the SECs. That’s the type of leadership I need from them.”
Sophomore Ryan Stachler is coming off a solid freshman year after which he qualified to play in the U.S. Open at Oakmont as an amateur. Stevens is off to a good start this fall after finishing 15-under for three rounds for his first top five finish at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate in Arizona.
“Scott is a tremendous ball-striker,” McDonald said. “He pretty much has that as part of his game every day, so it’s just a matter of how he putts and handles situations. His game just continues to mature. He represents our program with class.”
Our younger guys are talented. They just need the experience.
This is also a time for freshmen Connor Chesky, Caleb Proveaux, and Jamie Wilson to get accustomed to being collegiate student-athletes, as McDonald expects the younger players to play to their potential.
“The last couple of weeks, I think I’ve seen them really turn the corner in terms of how we do things and what is expected of them,” McDonald said. “I’m looking forward to them playing well the rest of the fall and then having a really good spring.
“Connor Chesky has a tremendous work ethic, and that has been infectious throughout the team. Jamie has a lot of energy and is one of those kids that is just fun to be around. He’s been a great addition to the program. Caleb Proveaux has struggled based on his resume coming in, but I’ve really seen him turn the corner the last couple of weeks and making real progress. He’s a really hard worker as well.”
The coaching staff understands the difficulties the rookies experience, having been accustomed to normally being the best player on their high school teams. At the college level, it’s harder to crack the starting lineup.
“That’s always the challenge because just about every player we bring in was the best player around from wherever they are from,” McDonald said. “We only have five spots to travel with. It’s an adjustment, but the upside of it is that you’re around really good players every day. That can make you better.
“Our younger guys are talented. They just need the experience. That’s a lot of what the fall (season) is about in college golf. It’s getting the guys out playing and knowing what it feels like to be in contention. I’m excited as these guys continue to grow and get more experience, I think you’re going to see some good performances.”
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