Carolina returns to Houston looking to defend 2015 title
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 handed the reigns over to Bill McDonald and became director of golf in July 2007. Blackmon was inducted to the Golf Coaches' Association of America Hall of Fame in 2005, and his experience building both successful teams and players will help South Carolina teams continue to improve and compete at a national level.
In 2010 Blackmon took on the women's assistant coaching duties and has since helped lead South Carolina to three NCAA Regional titles and an appearance in the NCAA Championship each year. In 2013-14 the Gamecocks had one of their best seasons in school history, recording nine consecutive top-five finishes, including second place at both the SEC Championship and the NCAA East Regional. They raised the standard again in 2014-15, earning the program's first-ever No. 1 ranking after capturing the inaugural ANNIKA Intercollegiate to open the season. The Gamecocks stayed in the top five all season before posting a second-straight SEC Championship runner-up result and a NCAA East Regional title to go along with a program-record 10 top-five finishes.
Blackmon helped the Gamecocks remain among the nation's elite in 2015-16. South Carolina reached match play at the 2016 NCAA Championship and placed fifth in the event, its best showing ever at the tournament. The Gamecocks continued their recent tradition of peaking at the right time, and they captured the 2016 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional title. The victory marked the program's fourth regional championship in the last seven years.
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).
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.
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 currently on the faculty at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and is married to Jared Jones; the couple has daughters Bailey Gale and Piper Leigh. Jordan is a recent USC graduate and a musician in Los Angeles, California. Tate is a personal trainer and resides in Columbia, S.C. with his wife Randi Newman Blackmon.
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