College tournament in Aiken is first-class

03/08/2014 10:38 PM

03/08/2014 10:39 PM

To stage a first-class college tournament, the organizers need a great course, outstanding sponsors and a generous portion of involvement from both the club and the community, a recipe that describes the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate.

The event unfolds for the 17th time on Monday and Tuesday over the storied Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, and Michael Carlisle, the hall of fame coach at tournament host USC-Aiken, expects nothing but the best.

“That’s the way we do things,” said Carlisle, who has guided the Pacers to three NCAA Division II national titles in his 24 seasons. “We got the tournament started, word spread, and teams want to come here to compete.”

The 18 teams this year come from as near as Augusta (Georgia Regents, previously Augusta State), to as far as Akron, Penn and Nebraska. South Carolina teams, in addition to Carlisle’s squad (currently ranked second in the Division II poll) include South Carolina, Clemson, Furman, Presbyterian, Francis Marion and Wofford. Tournament teams in Golfweek’s Division I ranking include Virginia (10th), the Gamecocks (24th) and the Tigers (25th).

“I could name six teams that could win, and have a 50 percent chance of being right,” Carlisle said.

The tourney started in 1998 with Cleveland Golf’s desire to stage a collegiate tournament in the area. Carlisle liked the idea, members of Palmetto endorsed the project and the Aiken community jumped on board. Cleveland has the title sponsorship, but multiple companies provide assistance.

“You start with Palmetto and its great reputation,” Carlisle said of the course that dates to 1892 and ranks among the top layouts in South Carolina. “This is a golf course they want to play and be challenged. It’s not long by today’s standards, but it holds its own.”

The individual champion last year, USC Aiken’s Matt Atkins at 4-under par 206, was one of four to break par last year.

Georgia Regents won the 2013 title, with South Carolina second, and Clemson and N.C. State tied for third. Teams play on 36 holes Monday and 18 on Tuesday.

Chip shots

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