First-round play begins Friday at 8:30 a.m.
Tournament set for March 2-4 at Long Cove Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
After 12 seasons at the helm of the South Carolina men's golf program, Puggy Blackmon was named director of golf in July 2007. Blackmon, who was inducted to the Golf Coaches' Association of America Hall of Fame in 2005, is now the unifying presence for Carolina golf, sharing his wealth of knowledge with both the men's and women's teams. His experience building both successful teams and players will help both teams continue to improve and compete at a national level.
As a head coach, Blackmon steered his teams to 23 straight trips to NCAA postseason, including all 12 seasons he coached the Gamecocks. At South Carolina, eight of his 12 NCAA Regional berths resulted in NCAA Championship appearances. South Carolina golf won nine team tournament titles in Blackmon's tenure, including the 2007 NCAA West Regional. The Gamecocks have spent a considerable amount of time in the national polls, including a No. 3 national ranking in 1999 and fourth in 2000.
Under Blackmon's tutelage, Gamecocks captured 11 individual titles, including five from All-American Kyle Thompson. Six golfers earned 10 All-America honors, and 11 Gamecocks were named to 17 All-Southeastern Conference first or second teams. Blackmon also coached two SEC Freshmen of the Year (Mark Anderson, 2005 and Eric Ecker, 1998) and an SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year (West Streib, 2005).
In Blackmon's final season at the helm of the men's program, the team celebrated with a victory at the 2007 NCAA West Regional, during which the team's total of 820 shattered the school record for a 54-hole tournament by 25 strokes. In arguably the most important event of the season, Blackmon's golfers posted just two scores over par among the 15 rounds played. George Bryan IV led the way en route to PING All-Southeast Region and honorable mention All-America honors at season's end.
Blackmon's players excelled academically as well. The men's golf team posted the highest team grade point average of any of the school's men's programs for three consecutive semesters in the spring of 2005, fall of 2005 and spring of 2006. Former Gamecock Lars Cederqvist was named a 2000 Academic All-American as a senior after maintaining a 4.0 in mechanical engineering throughout his collegiate career. Eight different golfers have earned 10 GCAA All-America Scholar honors while 40 players have been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
In addition to serving as director of golf at South Carolina, Blackmon serves as swing coach for PGA and LPGA Tour players David Duval, Kyle Thompson and Clarissa Childs.
Before coming to Carolina on June 5, 1995, Blackmon coached Georgia Tech to five Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, 11-consecutive NCAA Championship appearances and 34 team tournament titles.
During his 12-year tenure at Georgia Tech, Blackmon built the Yellow Jacket program into one of the most successful and dominant in college golf. At that time, only six other college golf programs had matched his program's 11 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. Blackmon's Tech squad finished runner-up at the 1993 NCAA Championship, and he led the Rambling Wreck to five top-seven national finishes. His Georgia Tech teams either won or finished second in the ACC Championship nine times.
A four-time ACC Coach of the Year (1984, 1985, 1992, 1993), three of Blackmon's former golfers finished second at the NCAA Championships, and his players at South Carolina and Georgia Tech combined for 31 individual tournament crowns. Blackmon coached 31 All-Americans at Tech and Carolina and two national players of the year in the 1990s at Tech. Duval, a four-time All-American, was the 1993 National Player of the Year, while Stewart Cink, one of the brightest young stars in the professional ranks, was named the 1995 National Player of the Year.
Blackmon has coached 30 All-SEC or All-ACC performers in his tenure, while five of those individuals -- Bob McDonnell (1985), David Duval (1991, 1993), Mikko Rantanen (1994) and Eric Ecker (1998) -- were conference medalists. The Yellow Jackets won the ACC team title in 1985, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994, while Carolina was runner up by one stroke at the 1998 SEC Championship - USC's best finish ever. In addition, Blackmon coached his teams at 43 tournament titles and finished his coaching career with a streak of 23 straight postseason appearances at Carolina and Georgia Tech.
Blackmon has also proven to be an effective fundraiser, which is a role he has expanded as director of golf. At Carolina, Blackmon has orchestrated and raised funds for the Wardle Golf House, South Carolina's state of the art teaching facility, and a complete renovation of the on-campus short-game facility. His creation of Cock N' Fire and Head Ball Coach wines have raised over $250,000 for the purchase of a conversion van and two mini-vans for the team's travel. Blackmon also spearheaded the efforts that raised $1.2 million for endowment of his team's scholarships at Georgia Tech.
Born William Dempsey Blackmon III on Dec. 9, 1950 in Beaufort, S.C., he is a 1969 graduate of Ridgeland High School. Blackmon played collegiately at Carson-Newman College, where he received his bachelor of arts in business administration in 1973. He was chosen one of the Outstanding College Athletes of America in 1971 and 1973. After receiving his master of science in economics from Clemson in 1977, Blackmon worked for six years in the golf resort operations and development field in Florida.
Blackmon and his wife, Gail, also a Ridgeland native, have three children: a daughter, Ashley, and two sons, Jordan and Tate. Ashley, a South Carolina and Medical School at South Carolina graduate, is a physician in Columbia and is married to Jared Jones. Jordan is a recent USC graduate, and Tate, is a recent graduate of Blythewood High School.