Spartanburg, S.C. – Returning to the site where it has garnered much success, and announced its presence on the NCAA Division I level, the USC Upstate men's golf team opens the 2011-12 season at the Rutgers Invitational Friday morning, joining 14 other teams battling for the tournament championship.
The Rutgers Invitational was the first tournament Upstate entered after making the transition to Division I membership in 2007-08. Not only did the Spartans play well, but behind the performance of individual tournament medalist Michael Lawrence and second-place finisher Josh Gallman, they won the team championship as well to announce the program's presence in Division I.
In all, Upstate has made three appearances in the tournament. The Spartans have claimed one team championship, two second-place finishes and two individual championships playing in the event. In addition to the team championship and Lawrence's individual title in 2007, Upstate finished second in 2008 and 2009 and Gallman claimed the individual championship as the only player under par in the 2009 event. The Spartans did not participate in the tournament last year.
The Rutgers University Golf Course is a par-71 layout that plays at 6,337 yards. It was founded in 1961 and was designed by Tom Purdy. The Rutgers Invitational will be played over 54 holes with 36 holes played on Friday and 18 on Saturday. The 15-team field will include Adelphi, Davenport, Fairfield, Fairleigh Dickinson, Hofstra, UMass-Lowell, Monmouth, CW Post, Rider, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Peter's, Upstate, Wagner and Wilmington.
Upstate head coach Todd Lawton will send an experienced lineup into action this week with Adam Goins, Brad Sill, Tyler Comer, Brian Horton and Matthew Horton representing the Spartans on the course. The five combined to play 137 rounds last year. All five players are from the Spartanburg area with Sill and Comer calling Sparkle City home, Horton from nearby Boiling Springs and Hopper and Goins hailing from just up I-85 in Gaffney.
Sill led Upstate last season with a 74.2 stroke average playing in every tournament. He claimed two top 10 individual finishes and one top five effort on the year. Hopper ranked second on the team with a 74.3 stroke average and took home three top 10 individual finishes and two top five efforts. Comer was third on the team with a 74.6 stroke average in 20 rounds and seven events. He claimed one top five finish. Goins ranked fourth with a 74.7 stroke average and became the first Upstate golfer to win an individual championship as a freshman when he claimed medalist honors at the Caribbean Classic. Horton ranked fifth on the team with a 75.1 stroke average and claimed a top five finish.
Dickson Waiting on the Word
As a senior last year, but playing in his first competitive year as a college athlete, Nelson Dickson battled his way into the lineup and played in seven tournaments. He became a mainstay in the lineup during the spring portion of the schedule, playing in six events. He then had a tremendous summer that saw him finish second at the South Carolina Amateur Championship and advance to the semifinals of the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship. Dickson had not competed in any sport on the college level since graduating from Boiling Springs High School in 2005. He started college at Presbyterian, but left school in order to work and save money in order to pay for college and continue his education. He enrolled at Upstate and tried out for the golf team heading into the 2010-11 season. He spent last year contributing for the Spartans in his fifth year of the five-year period for his eligibility since he started Presbyterian in 2005. Dickson and Upstate requested an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA based on extenuating circumstances and the governing body ruled against the request. However, an appeal has been sent to the NCAA and Dickson and the Spartans are awaiting final word from the organization.
No Newcomers Here
It is a rarity that a coach does not bring anyone new onto a team in any given year. But, with an experienced and deep team returning to the program in 2011-12, head coach Todd Lawton did not need to bring anyone new into the program. If Nelson Dickson is eligible to compete (see above note), Upstate will have just one senior on the team with the roster full of juniors (five) and sophomores (four). The depth on the team is evident. Brad Sill led the Spartans with a 74.2 stroke average a year ago. Three other Spartans averaged less than 75 last year, while seven team members were within 2.5 strokes of Sill's average for the year.
Goins Looks to Capitalize on Strong Summer
Adam Goins made program history last year when he became the first and only freshman to win an individual tournament championship when he claimed medalist honors at the Caribbean Classic. He followed a solid spring with a tremendous summer. He finished second at the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship and was the only player from South Carolina to qualify for the prestigious Cardinal Amateur played in Greensboro, N.C. Goins will look to carry the momentum from the spring and summer into action this fall.