Last season, the South Carolina men’s golf team missed out on qualifying for a national title, but this season, the team will look to new but experienced players with the hope of getting the team closer to a championship.
In the offseason, the Gamecocks landed redshirt senior transfer Lansdon Robbins from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Robbins was second on UNCW in low stroke average and was named second team all-conference in the Colonial Athletic Association in both 2021 and 2022. Robbins said he has adjusted well to the move from Wilmington to Columbia and adapted to his role on a new team.
“It's been great. Can’t complain about anything. I love it here in Columbia. Got great practice facilities, great coaches, great teammates. Everything’s been awesome,” Robbins said.
As far as improvements to his game as he joins South Carolina’s roster, Robbins said he and head coach Bill McDonald worked on improving his contact with the ball compared to what he was able to do last fall. With Robbins hoping to parlay those tweaks into more consistent hitting, he is expected to play a big part in McDonald’s plans for 2023.
However, the Gamecocks took a big blow even before the start of the season. Fifth-year senior Zack Byers, a South Carolina addition from Gardner-Webb via the transfer portal, suffered an offseason labrum tear that will keep him off the course all season. While playing for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, Byers was the first Gardner-Webb golfer to qualify for the national championship as an individual and was named first team All-Big South Conference.
Before Robbins and Byers joined, a pair of Gamecocks entered the transfer portal after last season: sophomores Liam Shinn and Jason Quinlan moved to Georgia State and Troy, respectively.
"It's tricky out there. You've had kids leave, and some come in. It's a crazy world right now in that regard," McDonald said.
Despite losing those key players to the transfer portal, fifth-year senior Evans Lewis returned to Columbia for his final season of eligibility. Lewis was the only member of the Gamecocks to make it to the national championship tournament last year. Though the team missed the cut, Lewis made it as the highest-placed individual on a non-advancing team at the Norman Regionals in Oklahoma and has set his sights in the offseason on improving, so he can get back to the championships in better form.
"Inside of 150 yards is definitely where I need to improve the most … to make proximity a little closer,” Lewis said.
The Gamecocks are led by McDonald, who is now in his 15th season as Gamecocks head coach. He is the winningest golf coach in South Carolina’s history with 24 tournament wins. He has also produced 11 All-Americans, 18 All-SEC members and three current PGA Tour golfers.
“The goal every spring is to try to improve each week and then try to peak around SEC’s and then going into regionals,” McDonald said.
South Carolina's first event of the spring starts this Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Puerto Rican Classic, and ends Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Peyton Butt contributed to the reporting for this story.