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Spurrier, Sharpe win Alma Mater title

GREENSBORO, Ga. — In his fourth year at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier went to Georgia and came back with a championship.

Though it was not the SEC title, Spurrier still planned to find a spot for the new trophy.

Spurrier teamed with former Gamecocks great Sterling Sharpe on Tuesday to shoot a 12-under-par 60 to pull away from a dozen other teams of coaches and celebrity alumni to win the Chick-fil-A Bowl Alma Mater at Reynolds Plantation.

Sharpe blasted 300-yard drives and Spurrier made several long putts on the back nine at the Oconee to beat the defending-champion Virginia Tech team of Frank Beamer and Dell Curry and the UCLA duo of Rick Neuheisel and beach volleyball legend Sinjin Smith by five strokes in the scramble format.

Besides winning $100,000 in scholarship funds for USC, Spurrier and Sharpe received crystal bowls — at least one of which could wind up at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“I don’t know if they want a golf trophy in there. Maybe I’ll give it to (USC director of golf) Puggy Blackmon,” Spurrier said. “We’ll put it somewhere. We don’t have that many trophies that we need to hide ’em.”

The 63-year-old Spurrier took a while to warm up on the windy day along Lake Oconee. After struggling to find the right speed on his putts on the front nine, Spurrier hit the practice green during the hourlong break at the turn.

After Spurrier drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the 398-yard, par-4 16th, Sharpe yelled, “He went and worked on it at halftime!”

Spurrier’s short game was a good complement to Sharpe’s drives, which had several of the competitors grumbling about whether Sharpe, a celebrity tour regular, submitted an accurate handicap. But Neuheisel, who played in the last group with the USC tandem over the final nine holes, said the best team won.

Neuheisel, hired at UCLA during the offseason, described Sharpe’s drives as “mash city.”

“It’s hard to hit after that,” said Neuheisel, adding that he told himself to “just stay within yourself, hit your little bunt single (and) try to get on base.”

The field was a who’s who of college football names.

Fans showed up at a golf tournament and an Iron Bowl broke out with Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville playing in the group behind Alabama’s Nick Saban.

New Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez teamed with former Wolverines quarterback Brian Griese. Retired Colorado coach Bill McCartney was looking for another miracle from partner Kordell Stewart, whose Hail Mary pass slayed Michigan in 1994.

Like Spurrier, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who has a home at Lake Oconee, brought in a ringer. Friedgen traded last year’s partner, ESPN broadcaster Scott Van Pelt, for former Terp and NFL quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who also plays the celebrity events.

It did not help much: The Terps’ twosome finished 1-under, 11 strokes back.

Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, the lone basketball coach in the tournament, had a tough time in what he said was his second round of golf this year.

When he mis-hit a chip off the 14th green, Smith heard those words dreaded by golfers everywhere: “We’re still away, Coach,” Jim Petersen, a former NBA player, said.

But everyone seemed to have a good time on a course ranked as one of the country’s best in a laid-back atmosphere epitomized by the two inflatable Chick-fil-A cows that stood sentry at opposite ends of the driving range.

Spurrier appeared to be enjoying the proceedings the most, giving fist-bumps to Sharpe and chuckling to himself as he rolled in a final putt for par on 18.

Spurrier, who played with Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker last year, can re-live the experience on Christmas Day when CBS airs its taped broadcast.

“I knew I had a good team with Sterling if we putted well,” Spurrier said. “You’ve got to make some putts. We zigzagged around and made our share.”

And they have the trophies to prove it.

Extra point. Spurrier said left tackle Hutch Eckerson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery but should be fine. Eckerson, who redshirted last season to add weight and muscle, is expected to start the first two games in place of Jamon Meredith, who will miss the N.C. State and Vanderbilt games in return for the NCAA restoring his redshirt season.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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