Men’s Golf Set to Open Play in Shoal Creek Invitational on Monday

COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) — The Gamecocks head to Birmingham, Ala., this week for the Shoal Creek Invitational hosted by UAB at Shoal Creek Country Club over Sept. 28-29. South Carolina‘s Matt NeSmith, Keenan Huskey, Sean Kelly, Scott Stevens and Ryan Stachler will represent the Garnet & Black at the event. Shoal Creek Golf Club opened for business in 1977 and was an instant classic, drawing the PGA Championship just seven years later. Since its opening, the Jack Nicklaus designed course has hosted the PGA Championship (1984, 1990), U.S. Amateur (1986), U.S. Junior Amateur (2008), and Regions Tradition, one of five major events on the Champions Tour (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Last year, North Florida took home the title with a three-round score of 859 (-5) and held a three-stroke advantage over runner-up Alabama (862, -2). Individually, UNF‘s Joey Petronio (205, -11) and Alabama‘s Tom Lovelady (206, -10) went toe-to-toe, tying the tournament record for the best score in a single round. COACH BILL MCDONALD On the Shoal Creek Invitational “Shoal Creek has hosted two PGA Championships, so it‘s one of the best golf courses in the country. I was able to see it quite a bit at the U.S. Junior in 2010. While it‘s going to be a new golf course for us, it has got a lot of history and tradition. It‘s a very straight forward, very difficult test. I think it fits us well for the type of team we are. It‘s a good field, so we‘re excited about it. It should be a fun event in Birmingham.” BREAKING DOWN THE SHOAL CREEK INVITATIONAL FIELD Another strong field awaits the Gamecocks at the Shoal Creek Invitational in Birmingham, Ala. Including South Carolina, eight of the 12 teams competing finished the 2014-15 season ranked among the top 60 in the final Golfstat rankings. In addition to the Gamecocks, host UAB, Houston and Washington competed in the NCAA Championship last season. College of Charleston, Troy, Ole Miss and North Florida made the NCAA Tournament field for 2015 as well. RECAPPING THE CARPET CAPITAL COLLEGIATE The Gamecocks posted a final-round 296 (+8) on Sunday, Sept. 13, at The Farm Golf Club to finish in third place at the Carpet Capital Collegiate. South Carolina wrapped up the weekend with a 54-hole total of 880 (+16). Auburn captured the tournament title with a total of 868 (+4) after shooting a 287 (-1) on the final day. Carolina senior Matt NeSmith recorded his 18th career top-10 finish as he tied for seventh with a total of 217 (+1) after shooting a final-round 74 (+2). He tallied a pair of birdies and four bogeys on the afternoon. Freshman Scott Stevens concluded a solid debut for the Gamecocks with a tie for 14th with a total of 221 (+5). Stevens carded a 76, which included one birdie and five bogeys. EXPERIENCE RETURNS Carolina returns seven golfers from last year‘s squad, including seniors Matt NeSmith, Will Starke and Sean Kelly. The senior trio has played in a combined 95 tournaments for the Gamecocks during their careers and has recorded a combined 35 top-10 finishes. Starke (second-team PING and Golfweek) and NeSmith (third-team PING and Golfweek) were named All-Americans last season and both earned first-team PING All-Southeast Region and All-SEC honors. They collected spots on the Golfweek Preseason All-America teams this fall with NeSmith landing on the first team and Starke on the third team. Junior Ben Dietrich has played in 15 tournaments for the Gamecocks, including the 2014 NCAA Championship, while sophomore Keenan Huskey has played in three tournaments and senior Brendan Gramley has played in two tournaments as an individual. CHASING RECORDS Seniors Matt NeSmith and Will Starke entered the season with several career school records within reach. The duo sits in spots one and two for career scoring average with NeSmith in the top position at 71.80 and Starke right on his heels at 71.95. Starke is tied for third in career top-five finishes with 11, while NeSmith is tied for fifth with nine. The school record is 14 held by Kyle Thompson and David Seawell. NeSmith moved into sole possession of fourth place for career top-10s after tying for seventh at the Carpet Capital Intercollegiate to open the fall for his 18th, while Starke is tied for seventh with 14. The record is 22 held by Thompson. A LOOK BACK AT THE 2014-15 SEASON Carolina turned in one of the greatest seasons in school history in 2014-15. The Gamecocks won a school-record five tournament titles, recorded a program-record 10 top-five finishes and shattered the school record for team scoring average in a season by more than four strokes (282.85). The Gamecocks wrapped up the year ranked No. 6 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and No. 7 in the Golfstat Relative Rankings. Carolina finished tied for second at the SEC Championship and runner-up at the NCAA Bremerton Regional to earn its third-straight trip to the NCAA Championship. Individually, the Gamecocks combined for 33 top-20 finishes in team events, including 11 top-fives and three tournament wins. Will Starke finished the year with the lowest single-season scoring average in program history (70.27), while NeSmith finished with the second lowest (70.51). NeSmith also became the second Gamecock to win an SEC title as he claimed a six-stroke victory at the SEC Championship with a school-record 54-hole total of 196 (-14). AMONG THE BEST IN THE WORLD South Carolina seniors Matt NeSmith and Will Starke are listed in the latest Golfweek/ World Player Rankings. Nesmith is ranked eighth in the world and sixth in the U.S., while Starke is ranked No. 189 in the world and 77th nationally. In the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings, NeSmith is ranked No. 8 and Starke is ranked 43rd. THREE STRAIGHT TRIPS TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP The Gamecocks made their third-straight appearance at the NCAA Championship last season. Carolina is one of only four SEC schools and 13 programs nationally to earn a trip to the NCAA Championship each of the last three years. Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Texas, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Washington, UCLA and Southern California also punched their tickets to the 2013, 2014 and 2015 NCAA Championships. A TOP-10 PROGRAM Carolina wrapped up 2014-15 ranked in the top-10 in both the Golfstat Relative Rankings and Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. The Gamecocks were ranked No. 6 by Golfweek and No. 7 by Golfstat. Carolina enters the year ranked No. 7 in Golfweek‘s preseason countdown of the top 30 Division I programs and No. 8 in the Bushnell Golfweek Preseason Coaches Poll. MCDONALD’S 14 Gamecock head coach Bill McDonald is the winningest coach by tournament victories in school history with 14. McDonald broke the previous record of nine held by Puggy Blackmon (1995-2007) with Carolina‘s win at the Carpet Capital Collegiate last September.

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