Starke’s 64 lifts Gamecocks atop NCAA leaderboard

uscgolf-starkeBehind a 6-under 64 from sophomore Will Starke, the South Carolina men’s golf team shot an opening-round 272 (-8) to take the lead at the NCAA Championship on Saturday at Prairie Dunes Country Club.

The Gamecocks hold a one-shot lead over Oklahoma (273) heading into Sunday’s second round. All 15 teams from the afternoon wave began playing their second round on Saturday. South Carolina will not start its second round until Sunday. The top eight teams at the end of stroke play will advance to match play on Tuesday. Starke also led individually after one round, holding a one-shot lead over Oklahoma’s Charlie Saxon and Virginia’s Denny McCarthy.

South Carolina’s score of 272 and Starke’s 64 are the lowest NCAA Championship rounds in school history. Starke’s round is also tied for the third lowest round in program history, while the team’s round is tied for the fifth lowest all-time at South Carolina.

Gamecock head coach Bill McDonald couldn’t have been more proud of the way his team played on Saturday.

“It was a great round, probably our best of the year,” McDonald said. “The guys picked a good time to play well. Will Starke and Caleb Sturgeon carried us. Their rounds were incredible, and we had nice rounds from Will Murphy and Ben Dietrich. I think if we can get Matt (NeSmith) going a bit maybe we can make a real good run at this thing.”

A native of Chapin, S.C., Starke recorded just one blemish on his scorecard on the way to shooting his second 64 of the season. He made birdies on the fifth and seventh holes before falling back to 1-under with a bogey on No. 8. After recording par on the next four holes, Starke produced the highlight of the day for the Gamecocks, holing out from the fairway for eagle from 132-yards out on the par-4 13th. He then made par on the next two holes before reeling off three-straight birdies on his final three holes to get into the clubhouse at 6-under.

Sturgeon is just two strokes back of Starke in a tie for fourth after firing a 4-under 66. The Laurens, S.C., native recorded par on his first five holes before tallying birdies on three of his final four holes to make the turn at 3-under. He birdied No. 12 and then made his first bogey of the day on No. 15. He then birdied two of his final three holes, including No. 18, to finish the round at 4-under.

Murphy turned in a solid round o 70 (E) to finish tied for 46th. He recorded a birdie and a bogey on the front side to make the turn at even par. He then tallied two birdies and two bogeys on the back nine to get into the clubhouse at even.

In his NCAA Championship debut, Dietrich posted a 2-over 72 and is tied for 84th. He made seven-straight pars to open his round before recording a birdie and then a bogey to make the turn at even par. He birdied the par-3 10th to begin the back nine before playing the final eight holes at 3-over par to wrap up the round at 2-over.

Auburn and Alabama are tied for third with a score of 274 (-6), followed by SMU (275), Oklahoma State (277), Georgia Tech (277) and Iowa State (278).

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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