In position to put an exclamation point on the season-opening Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach, USC stumbled on the back nine and skidded from contention to sixth place..
“But the guys learned from the experience,” coach Bill McDonald said.
The Gamecocks faced the same situation a few days later and knocked off a star-studded field to win the Carpet Capital Collegiate tournament. In last weekend’s Camden Collegiate Invitational, they sparkled again on the final nine and earned their second victory in four fall events.
“The way we came back in the Carpet Capital tournament was huge,” McDonald said of the No. 10 Gamecocks. “We had a different look, a different mindset, in that situation and played excellent golf. It was an incredible round. Everything was completely different from Pebble Beach, and that was such a great confidence builder.”
With all the starters returning from the 2013-14 team that finished ninth in the NCAA Championship, McDonald expected quality performances and gives his team high marks – except for that final-round back nine at Pebble Beach – for the fall. USC finished fourth in its other fall start, then defeated Virginia in match play.
Seniors Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy and juniors Matt NeSmith and Will Starke formed the Carolina nucleus, and McDonald can count on Ben Dietrich, Keenan Huskey and Sean Kelly, a two-year regular who is coming off an injury.
“Will Starke had an incredible fall, playing high-level golf at challenging courses,” McDonald said. “Matt played very well as well. Caleb is steady and a leader.”
Murphy, who missed the Camden event with tendinitis in his wrist, is on track to be the SCGA player of the year after winning two prestigious amateur events and finishing 10th in another, in addition to his college exploits.
The spring season starts Feb. 20 in Houston.
Chip shotsUSC women’s team captured its second Golfweek Team of the Week honors after winning the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship last weekend. ...
Tom Arneman, superintendent at the Plantation Course at Edisto, has been named Employee of the Year by the S.C. Golf Course Owners Association. ...
Players who have competed in the NGA Tour’s Woodcreek Classic at the Members Club’s Woodcreek course sparkled on the PGA Tour last weekend. Ben Martin (Greenville/Clemson, 2010) won in Las Vegas, Kevin Streelman (2007) was second, Russell Knox (2008-10) was third, and Scott Brown (Aiken/USC Aiken, 2008-09) and Robert Streb (2010-11) were for 10th. Six other Woodcreek “alumni,” including, William McGirt (Wofford/Boiling Springs), Kevin Kisner (Aiken) and Tommy Gainey (Hartsville), made the Las Vegas cut.