The high quality of college golf in the state of South Carolina often goes unappreciated, and USC coach Bill McDonald wants to change the perception. Thus, the Camden Collegiate Invitational unfolds for the second time next weekend.
“There are 11 (NCAA) Division I men’s golf teams in the state plus USC Aiken’s Division II national powerhouse,” Gamecocks assistant coach Alex Hamilton said. “The idea of the Camden tournament is to both showcase the college teams and also illustrate how the junior golf programs in South Carolina develop outstanding players.”
Camden Country Club’s devilish Donald Ross design provides the stage on Saturday (36 holes) and Sunday (18 holes), and participants include a couple of home-grown All-Americans, the past two State Amateur champions, and multiple U.S. Amateur qualifiers.
Although is short by today’s standards, the Camden course is no pushover. In last year’s first Camden Collegiate, Wofford’s Brannan Hudson won at 9-under-par — but only three other players bettered par for three rounds. The nationally ranked Gamecocks won the team title by one stroke over Wofford.
“(Now graduated) Caleb Sturgeon made a birdie on the last hole and we won by a shot,” Hamilton remembered. “But it was obviously very tight and showed the caliber of college golf in the state. We expect more of the same this year.”
The Gamecocks, who open play today in the Tavistock Invitational in Orlando, Fla., will have a lineup of seniors Matt NeSmith, Will Starke and Sean Kelly along with sophomore Keenan Huskey and freshman Scott Stevens. Hamilton said the coaching staff hopes to use the Orlando and Camden tournaments to rebound from a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Shoal Creek Invitational in Alabama.
“Obviously, that was not our best tournament,” Hamilton said, noting the Gamecocks won five tournaments and posted 10 top-five finishes last season. “We didn’t finish the way we normally do.”
The Gamecocks feature NeSmith and Starke, who are one-two in career scoring at USC and earned All-America honors a year ago, plus a U.S. Amateur qualifier in Kelly and the 2015 South Carolina Amateur champion in Huskey.
Austin James, a U.S. Amateur qualifier, leads Charleston Southern; 2014 State Amateur king Andrew Novak and Jeremy Grab, both from Charleston, head the Wofford cast; and Furman features two more products of the state junior program, Bryce Howell (Blythewood) and Preston Cole (Greer).
“Just lots of quality players,” Hamilton said. “Counting individuals who will not count in the team scores, we will have 75 players, and many of them learned the game in this state. People can see what outstanding golfers we have on the college teams in South Carolina.”
Play begins at 8:30 Saturday morning with a shotgun start and off the first and 10th tees Sunday at 8:30. Admission is free of charge.
NOTES Former USC golfer Chase Liebler has been named the Carolinas Golf Association’s assistant director for junior golf. He is the son of Irmo’s Steve Liebler, who recently reached the semifinals in the U.S. Senior Amateur. ... Twelve players on the Columbia Golfweek Amateur Golf Tour have qualified for the national championship tournament at Hilton Head, which draws more than 900 players from 42 cities. The qualifiers: Jared Beard (championship flight); Wes Brown, Mike Griggs and Paul Sanderson (A flight), Regal Perry (B flight); Kelvin Briggs, Patrick Ramsey and Dwight Williams (C flight); and Sam Graham, Tom Haddad, Jimmy Mathis and Crys Peyton (D flight). Players compete in flights based on their handicap indexes. ... Todd Hendley (Greer) won his second SCGA Mid-Amateur title with a two-round 8-under 136 at Green Valley CC in Greenville. ... The First Tee of the Lowcountry’s benefit tournament will be held Oct. 26 at Wexford Plantation on Hilton Head Island and will feature some of golf’s older champions such as Bob Goalby, Dow Finsterwald, Don January, Lee Elder, Doug Sanders, Billy Maxwell and Jim Ferree. Contact Ken Campbell at email@example.com or Jim Magruder at firstname.lastname@example.org to enter or for additional information. ... At Houndslake CC in Aiken, Pat Brogden (Garner, N.C.), won the Women’s Eastern Golf Association’s Senior title for the fourth time.