For USC men’s golf team, ‘the fall is always a learning process’

Jamie Wilson
Jamie Wilson

Losing three seniors from a squad that won three spring tournaments and climbed into the nation’s top 15 can be challenging, but coach Bill McDonald pondered his 2019-20 South Carolina men’s golf team and said, “We’ll be fine.”

The Gamecocks, ranked 22nd in Golfweek’s preseason poll, opened their fall campaign last weekend by sharing fifth place in the Carpet Capital Collegiate with a new-look lineup that featured a pair of seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman.

Although USC suffered what McDonald called “some unfortunate outcomes on a difficult golf course” in the second of three rounds, the team nevertheless finished two shots out of second place and, the coach said, “We learned some good lessons.”

Senior Jamie Wilson, a starter much of last season, shared fourth individually with scores that typified the team’s uneven performance. He opened and closed with 4-under-par 68s, but he struggled to a 7-over 79 in round two.

“(Wilson) showed a lot of heart in coming back from a tough round,” McDonald said.

Building on the “good things” and smoothing out what the coach called “inconsistencies” is the goal headed into USC’s next tournament, the Graeme McDowell Invitational in Birmingham on Sept. 23-24.

“The fall is always a learning process, especially if you’re replacing a lot of guys,” McDonald said. “Looking at the big picture, the guys are getting back into the routine of classes, conditioning and practice. We want to use the fall season to develop, build on our strengths and improve on our weaknesses. Obviously, we want to grow and be playing our best in April (SEC championship) and May (national tournaments).”

In summer competition, Wilson won the Palmetto Amateur and posted a couple of other top-10s. Junior Jack Parrott won twice, and sophomore Ryan Hall qualified for the U.S. Amateur.

That trio joined senior Caleb Proveaux and freshman Jack Wall in the lineup. One of the more heralded recruits in recent years, Wall posted USC’s second best score at 6-over 222 and tied for 25th.

“We know we have areas where we must improve,” said McDonald, in his 13th season in leading the USC men’s program. “The good thing is, we have the players who will (improve). It’s pretty cool to be working with guys now and then we’ll look back in the spring and see their development and growth.”

The 2018-19 Gamecocks provided a textbook illustration of peaking for the postseason competition. After a so-so fall, the team posted three wins, a second and a third in the spring. Matching that will be a focal point this season, and the process begins now.

“The college golf season is a long haul, eight months, between the start of classes and the SEC championship (in April),” McDonald said. “We had a spotty (first tournament), but looking ahead, I know we’ll be fine.”

Chip shots. Clemson, No. 17 in the preseason poll, also opened its men’s season in the Carpet Capital tourney and tied for seventh, two shots behind the Gamecocks. Junior Colby Patton tied for 21st individually to lead the Tigers. In a quick turn-around, Clemson is playing in the Maui Jim Intercollegiate in Arizona that ends Sunday. . . Brandon Truesdale (Rock Hill) and Jamie Lightsey (Indian Land) needed six extra holes in a three-way playoff to win the SCGA’s Players Four-Ball title at Columbia CC. Lightsey, who made a hole-in-one on No. 5 in the final round, secured he championship with a birdie on the sixth playoff hole. The Columbia team of Robert Dargan and John Obrien placed second and the Laurens duo of Thomas Todd III and Matt Wiggins took third. The three playoff teams finished the regulation 36 holes at 15 under par. . . . Five players from the Palmetto State _ Jordan Sease (Lexington), Ryan Reynolds (Camden), Chris Locker (Chapin), Todd White (Spartanburg) and Daniel Day (Clemson) _ are competing in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in the Denver suburb of Parker, Colorado. After 18-hole qualifying rounds Saturday and Sunday, the low 64 scorers advance to match play beginning Monday.