USC Golf 2nd After Regional 1st Round

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By Sports Department

COLUMBUS, OH (USC SID) -- Led by a career-low 68 (-3) from freshman Will Starke, the 20th-ranked South Carolina men’s golf team wrapped up the opening round of the NCAA Columbus Regional in second place on Thursday as it posted a 288 (+4) at the Ohio State University Golf Club.

With 36 holes remaining, the Gamecocks are just one stroke back of tournament leader Charlotte. The 49ers carded a 3-over 287 to take the early lead. The top five teams and top individual not on those teams will advance to the NCAA Championship. Six strokes separate Carolina and sixth place heading into the second round. Individually, Starke is in a tie for second place with UNLV’s Carl Johnson, one stroke back of Charlotte’s Raoul Menard (67) for the tournament lead.

“I thought the team really fought hard today, especially in the middle of the round when we struggled,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “They came back at the end of the round and fought really hard to keep us in the tournament and put us in a good position heading into tomorrow.”

Starke came up huge for the Gamecocks on a day red numbers were hard to come by, as only seven golfers finished the round under par. A native of Chapin, S.C., Starke got the only blemish on his scorecard out of the way early. After beginning the day with a par on the 10th hole, he bogeyed the par-4 11th to drop to 1-over. However, he bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 12th on his way to playing the remainder of his round at 4-under, with four birdies and 12 pars.

“Will Starke’s round was really strong,” McDonald said. “A 68 on this golf course is really great playing.”

Two more Gamecocks finished the round in the top 20. Sophomore Sean Kelly carded a 1-over 72 to move into a tie for 10th, and senior Dykes Harbin is in a tie for 16th after shooting a 2-over 73.

Kelly played his first nine at event par, recording two birdies and a pair of bogeys. After making par on the first three holes of the back nine, he recorded back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes to drop to 2-over. The Staten Island, N.Y., native regrouped to finish the day in strong fashion, recording three pars and a birdie on No. 17 to get into the clubhouse at 1-over.

Harbin, who has six top-20 finishes this season, made the turn with a 38 (+3) after recording one birdie, two bogeys and a double bogey on his first nine. He then made five straight pars to begin the back side before falling to 4-over with a bogey on No. 6. However, he helped the Gamecocks move up the leaderboard with birdies on the seventh and ninth holes to conclude his round.

Sophomore Caleb Sturgeon and freshman Matt NeSmith are also in the mix for a top-20 finish after each carding a 4-over 75 on Thursday to close out the round in a tie for 32nd. Sturgeon tallied one birdie and five bogeys on the afternoon, and NeSmith recorded three birdies and seven bogeys.

The competition for a top-five finish will be extremely close heading into Friday’s second round, as five teams are within six strokes of fifth place. Stanford is currently in third place with a score of 291 (+7), followed by UNLV (292) and Auburn (293).

The Gamecocks will tee off in the second round on Friday at 9:10 a.m. off the first tee and will be paired with Charlotte and Stanford. Live scoring will be available at golfstatresults.com.

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS
T2. Will Starke (5) 68 (-3)
T10. Sean Kelly (4) 72 (+1)
T16. Dykes Harbin (1) 73 (+2)
T32. Caleb Sturgeon (2) 75 (+4)
T32. Matthew NeSmith (3) 75 (+4)

TEAM STANDINGS
1. Charlotte 287 (+3)
2. South Carolina 288 (+4)
3. Stanford 291 (+7)
4. UNLV 292 (+8)
5. Auburn 293 (+9)
T6. Missouri 294 (+10)
T6. New Mexico 294 (+10)
8. San Francisco 297 (+13)
9. Georgia Southern 298 (+14)
10. Texas Tech 299 (+15)
11. Virginia 303 (+19)
12. Chattanooga 304 (+20)
13. Valparaiso 309 (+25)

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