Gamecocks Win Hootie At Bulls Bay Again
AWENDAW, S.C. (USC SID) — The University of South Carolina Men’s Golf team was victorious again on Tuesday as they defended their tournament title at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate. The Gamecocks won by 15 strokes with a score of 841 (-23), and sophomore Keenan Huskey was the medalist with a three-round total of 205 (-11).
Huskey took the top individual spot by six strokes over College of Charleston’s William Rainey, who finished with a three-day score of 211 (-5). The Cougars also finished runner-up as a team, shooting a total of 856 (-8), with Auburn (861, -3) rounding out the podium.
“I was just in control of my game the entire week,” Huskey said after the win, his second of the season. “I think we’re all peaking at the right time. It’s pretty exciting to see what we can do in the postseason.”
The tournament victory is the 18th in the career of head coach Bill McDonald, extending his South Carolina program record. It’s also the fourth win of the season for the Gamecocks, which matches 1990-91 and 2008-09 for the second-best total in school history. The five tournament titles from 2014-15 stand as the top mark in in the Gamecock record book.
Listed 16th in the latest Golfstat national rankings, the Gamecocks entered the day with an eight-stroke lead and shot the round of the day on Tuesday, a score of 280 (-8). At one point, South Carolina held a 20-stroke lead during Tuesday’s round.
Huskey took medalist laurels at the Camden Collegiate Invitational in October and was in contention for another victory right from the outset after firing a career-best 65 (-7) on Sunday. He closed with a 69 (-3) on Tuesday that included three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 6th hole. The sophomore was one of just three players to break 70 in extremely windy conditions on Tuesday at Bulls Bay Golf Club.
Scott Stevens finished tied for sixth, at 214 (-2) for the tournament after finishing the event with a 71 (-1). Stevens notched his fourth consecutive top-10 finish this week, but he had to dig deep to reach the personal milestone. The freshman climbed 39 spots on the individual leaderboard over the final two days after finishing Sunday’s round tied for 45th. He made four birdies in his last round.
Senior Will Starke was one of three Gamecocks to finish tied for 10th, at 215 (-1), and he was also one of three golfers in the field to break 70 on Tuesday. Last week’s Mackenzie Tour Q-School medalist shot 69 (-3) in his last round, with five birdies on the last day of play.
Matt NeSmith finished in the top-10 for the fifth straight tournament by matching Starke’s 215 (-1). The senior ended the tournament with a 71 (-1) that included three birdies. Earlier in the day, NeSmith moved up to No. 11 in the Golfweek/Sagarin collegiate individual rankings. The Ben Hogan Award candidate already owns two medalist honors this season.
Senior Sean Kelly also tied for 10th at 215 (-1) after firing an even-par 72 on Tuesday. Kelly’s individual result is his best of the season and his fourth career top-10 finish. He was steady throughout the tournament, posting rounds of par or better on all three days, and he notched three birdies in the last round.
QUOTING COACH BILL MCDONALD
“I’m a pretty happy coach right now. This was the second time this spring that we’ve had all five guys finish in the top-10. Keenan Huskey’s play was amazing. His 7-under par round on Sunday really got us going, and then to have three of our starters come back from Canadian Tour Qualifying School on some pretty dead legs and play as well as they did, overall, made for a tremendous team effort. Scott Stevens made some birdies coming in today to get a good finish as well. I just couldn’t be happier. It’s an incredible win for us.”
Huskey joins elite company with his victory on Tuesday, becoming the eighth Gamecock in program history to win twice in a single season. The sophomore joins Allen Powers (1966-67), Steve Liebler (1979-80), Carl Paulson (1992-93), Kyle Thompson (1998-99 and 2000-01), George Bryan IV (2009-10), Paul Woodbury (2009-10) and NeSmith (2014-15 and 2015-16) as Carolina golfers to top the podium twice in one year.
- – With his victory, Huskey became the 14th South Carolina golfer to win twice in his collegiate career.
- – Huskey and NeSmith are the second Gamecock duo to each win twice in a season, joining Bryan and Woodbury in 2009-10.
- – This is also the first time since 2009-10 that the Gamecocks have combined to win four medalist honors. That season, Bryan and Woodbury shared the spoils at the Rees Jones Intercollegiate, Woodbury won the Seminole Intercollegiate and Bryan shared the SEC Championship crown. It’s the first time Gamecock individuals have combined to win four separate tournaments in a season.
- – Dating back to last season, the Gamecocks have won nine of the last 21 tournaments they have entered.
- – Starke was the highest riser on Tuesday, going up 24 positions, while Stevens matched a career best by tying for sixth.
- – The Gamecocks join LSU, Auburn and Wake Forest as the only two-time winners of the Hootie.
- – Carolina’s score of 841 is a Hootie tournament record and ties for the 12th-lowest 54-hole total in program history.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, the Gamecocks embark on postseason play when the SEC Championship begins April 15. The tournament runs through April 17 at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.
NeSmith was the medalist last season at the SEC Championship, winning with a 54-hole program-record score of 196 (-14). The Gamecocks tied for second as a team and will be looking for their first SEC crown after runner-up finishes in 1998, 2008, 2013 and 2015.
South Carolina has won two previous conference tournament titles, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference crown in 1964 and the Metro Conference championship in 1991.