Gamecocks’ Run at NCAA Championship Ends with 13th-Place Finish

BRADENTON, Fla. — The sixth-ranked South Carolina men’s golf team wrapped up the NCAA Championship in 13th place on Monday after posting a final-round 300 (+12) at The Concession Golf Club.

The Gamecocks closed out the tournament with a 72-hole total of 1,187 (+35) and fell 15 strokes short of finishing in the top eight to make it to match play, bringing one of the greatest seasons in school history to an end. Carolina won a school-record five tournament titles, recorded a school-record 10 top-five finishes and shattered the school record for team scoring average in a season by more than four strokes (282.85).

Illinois clinched the top seed in match play with a 72-hole total of 1,155 (+3). Vanderbilt (1,157, +5), Georgia (1,158, +6), Texas (1,158, +6), Southern California (1,161, +9), South Florida (1,168, +16), LSU (1,169, +17) and UCLA (1,172, +20) round out the eight teams advancing to match play.

For the third straight day, junior Will Starke shot under par to lead the Gamecocks. Starke fired a 2-under 70 to finish tied for 16th with a total of 289 (+1). After bogeying No. 18, his ninth hole of the round, to make the turn at even par, he reeled off three straight birdies to start his back nine to get to 3-under on the day. He gave a shot back with a bogey on No. 5 but made par the rest of the way to get into the clubhouse in 2-under.

Junior Sean Kelly carded a solid 1-over 73 to finish in a tie for 49th with a 72-hole total of 298 (+10). He made the turn in 3-over but played his back nine in 2-under, including three birdies and just one bogey.

Junior Matt NeSmith finished the week in a tie for 45th with a total of 297 (+9) after shooting a 78 on Monday. In their final round as Gamecocks, seniors Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy each shot a 79 to finish tied for 71st (306) and 83rd (320), respectively.

SMU’s Bryson Dechambeua captured the individual national title with a 72-hole total of 280 (-8).

Notable

•             The Gamecocks shattered the program’s single-season team scoring average record, finishing the year with an average of 282.85. The previous record was 287.46 (2013-14).

•             With a tie for 16th finish, Starke became just the sixth Gamecock to record a top-20 finish at the NCAA Championship.

•             Starke finished the year with a scoring average of 70.27, which is the lowest in school history.

•             With three rounds under par at the NCAA Championship, Starke finished the year with a team-best 26 rounds under par out of a total 37 rounds.

•             Starke finished tied for the tournament lead in par-5 scoring with an average of 4.31 (-11).

•             NeSmith’s season stroke average of 70.51 ranks second in school history for a single season.

•             NeSmith and Starke both have a career average of 71.79, which ranks first in school history.

•             Sturgeon finished his Gamecock career with a career average of 72.90, the fifth-lowest career average in school history.

•             Murphy’s career average of 73.17 ranks ninth all-time at South Carolina.

Quotable

South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald

“Making the cut to 15 after the way we started out the first two rounds was quite an accomplishment. We had a game plan in place today to play very aggressively early and try to make a run at the final eight. Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way on the first few holes. We got some pretty bad breaks honestly. I think the guys were running a little bit low on energy to begin with, and not getting off to a fast start sort of sucked the energy out of us. But still finishing 13th is a pretty good week considering how we started out.”

On the play of Will Starke

“He had a tough first round, but in typical Will Starke fashion he came back strong and played some really solid golf the last three rounds. He got a top-20 finish out of this, which he certainly deserves. He played great.”

On seniors Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy “We are going to miss our two seniors. They’ve been two great seniors and great contributors to our program. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

SOUTH CAROLINA RESULTS

T16. Will Starke (2)                           78-71-70-70=289 (+1)

T45. Matt NeSmith (1)                   74-72-73-78=297 (+9)

T49. Sean Kelly (3)                           71-83-71-73=298 (+10)

T71. Caleb Sturgeon (5)                 78-75-74-79=306 (+18)

83. Will Murphy (4)                          83-80-78-79=320 (+32)

FINAL TEAM STANDINGS

1. Illinois                                               286-291-296-282=1155 +3

2. Vanderbilt                                      301-284-287-285=1157 +5

T3. Texas                                             294-300-280-284=1158 +6

T3. Georgia                                         288-293-286-291=1158 +6

5. Southern California                    289-285-296-291=1161 +9

6. South Florida                                                 294-291-292-291=1168 +16

7. LSU                                                    292-289-290-298=1169 +17

8. UCLA                                                294-304-280-294=1172 +20

9. Georgia Tech                                                 293-295-290-297=1175 +23

10. TCU                                                 296-293-291-299=1179 +27

11. Florida State                                                298-292-293-298=1181 +29

12. Auburn                                          301-290-296-296=1183 +31

13. South Carolina                            301-298-288-300=1187 +35

14. SMU                                               296-303-291-302=1192 +40

15. San Diego State                         290-299-298-306=1193 +41

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