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Sept. 15, 2007
Piscataway, N.J. - The USC Upstate men's golf team pulled off another stellar tournament performance, jumping out of the box by winning the season-opening Rutgers Invitational at the 6,337-yard, par-71 Rutgers University Golf Club Saturday afternoon. The tournament was Upstate's first as a member of NCAA Division I.
Individually, Upstate's Michael Lawrence finished the tournament with a 4-under-par 69-68-72=209 to win the individual title. Lawrence's win is the third individual title for Spartan golfers in the last two seasons. Baxter Culler won the Kiawah Island Invitational in last year's season-opening tournament and claimed the individual championship at the Peach Belt Conference Championships. Josh Gallman finished second, giving the Spartans a 1-2 finish. Gallman tallied a 1-under 69-69-74=212 total.
"It is just really amazing," said head coach Todd Lawton. "These guys played their games and played as well as anyone could on that golf course. Six of the first 10 rounds were par or better and it was exciting waking up knowing you had a 15-stroke lead heading into the second round.
"Having said that, our guys did not let up and matched the low round of the day today to win by 15 strokes. I think it's great for our confidence. We raised the bar with what we were able to accomplish last year and our guys are already talking about playing the best competition in Division I to see how they stack up. To make the move to Division I and win the first tournament we play is just amazing and truly exciting."
Upstate shot a 3-over-par 280-284-291=855 (+3) total to claim the championship by 15 strokes over Notre Dame. The Irish shot a 285-294-291=870 total. Longwood was third at 883 and was followed by Delaware (893) and Mount St. Mary's (894) in the top five.
Friday's good weather gave way to cool and windy conditions Saturday. However, Upstate entered the final round with a 15-stroke lead over Notre Dame and matched the Irish on the course to win by the same 15-shot margin.
Spartan Tyler Tucker finished in a tie for sixth after totaling 73-70-75=218 for the tournament. Jamie Lightsey and Baxter Culler each tied for 18th with 222 totals. Lightsey turned in rounds of 72, 77 and 73, while Culler shot rounds of 70, 80 and 72.
Upstate is in its first year as a member of NCAA Division I. The Spartans ended their membership in NCAA Division II last May by finishing second in the NCAA Division II National Championships by just one stroke. Four of the five players who played in the national tournament returned for the 2007-08 season.
Upstate travels to Sunset Beach, N.C., next weekend to play in the Sea Trail Intercollegiate.