Spartanburg, S.C. - USC Upstate head coach Todd
Lawton is set to open his sixth season as head coach of the men's
program when the Spartans tee off in the Springhill Suites
Intercollegiate at the Country Club of South Carolina Monday
morning. When he takes his team to the course, it will be the first
with no players connected with the 2006-07 team that finished
second by one stroke in the NCAA Division II National
While Lawton has had the benefit of experience on every team he has coached at Upstate, he will begin the season with a squad that has not seen a tremendous amount of experience on the collegiate level, but comes in with a bevy of talent. Only one player in this year's lineup, Tyler Comer, played in last year's Springhill Suites Intercollegiate. Lawton will send the five-player lineup of Brad Sill, Matthew Hopper, Will Graves, Danny Brock and Comer into tournament action. Comer shot rounds of 74, 76 and 76 last year to help the Spartan cause.
The Springhill Suites Intercollegiate will be played on the 7,062-yard, par-72 Country Club of South Carolina. The tournament will be played over 54 holes, with 36 on Monday and 18 on Tuesday. Georgia Southern won last year's championship with a 17-under-par score. Upstate, which maintained a position just outside of the top five through the first two rounds, struggled in the final round and finished 11th in the 15-team tournament. Josh Gallman led the Upstate cause, firing a 3-under-par 213 total to finish in a tie for ninth.
The field for the tournament will consist of 15 teams. Schools from, the A-Sun, Big South, Ohio Valley and Southern conferences, as well as two top teams in Division II, will play for the tournament championship. Defending champion Georgia Southern is back to defend its title. Upstate is the only A-Sun school in the tournament.
To say that the 2010-11 season represents a new beginning for Lawton and the men's golf program is an understatement. In the last two years, Lawton has seen the entire core of the foundation of Upstate's program graduate, including Gallman and Michael Lawrence off of last year's team. Gallman is the top golfer in the history of the program and finished his career with seven individual tournament wins, while Lawrence was a strong player in the lineup for four seasons, winning two individual titles on the Division I level. Of the five returning lettermen on this year's team, only Hopper and Brian Horton, not in the lineup this week, have seen significant action in more than half of the tournaments played last season. Horton suited up for 10 of Upstate's 11 tournaments last year and shared the individual championship with Gallman at the Palmas Del Mar Collegiate Classic. Hopper played in seven tournaments, while Comer saw action in five events. McKenzie Oref and Bryan Otis played in four tournaments a year ago.
Newbies Set To Take Course At Springhill
With six newcomers on the roster, head coach Todd Lawton knew that the lineup would consist of new faces. Qualifying for a spot in the lineup for the Springhill Suites Intercollegiate was fierce, but after all was said and done, three of the newcomers secured spots in the season-opening tournament. Brad Sill, a sophomore from Spartanburg who began his career at Winthrop before transferring to Upstate this year, qualified in the No. 1 position. He had a tremendous prep career in leading the Dorman High School squad that was traditionally one of the top programs in the state and saw significant action at Winthrop a year ago. WIll Graves, a freshman from Rock Hill, S.C., was a three-time team Most Valuable Player at South Pointe High School and qualified in the third position for the Spartans. Danny Brock, a freshman from Simpsonville, S.C., qualified fourth for the Spartans. He led Hillcrest High School to back-to-back appearances in the 4A state tournament and was a three-time all-region selection.
South Carolina Products Have Built Program At Upstate
The state of South Carolina is one of the premier locations for recreational golf in all of the U.S. It also produces a strong crop of college golfers. Upstate head coach Todd Lawton has built the program on talent from the Palmetto state. Beginning with the core of Baxter Culler, Jamie Lightsey and Tyler Tucker and continuing with Josh Gallman and Michael Lawrence, the foundation of the program was established with players from the state. Currently, 10 of the 12 players on this year's team hail from South Carolina, including all five players in the lineup for this week's tournament.
Looking For Balance
While Upstate relied heavily on the efforts of both Josh Gallman and Michael Lawrence to shoot low scores for the better part of the last three years, head coach Todd Lawton expects a more balanced attack this season. Last year, Upstate was hampered by scores in the upper 70's out of the No. 4 and No. 5 positions. Those scores were offset by the efforts of Gallman and Lawrence. While Lawton doesn't expect to see scores of 66 and 67 regularly this season, he also feels confident that with the depth on the team, the scores out of the No. 4 and No. 5 positions will be consistently lower. If that comes to fruition, the Spartans should be even more competitive than last year's team.