Hopper Takes Lead at A-Sun Championship, Spartans Second
Braselton, Ga. – USC Upstate golfer and Gaffney, S.C., native Matthew Hopper tied the school record with an opening round 66 and took the individual lead after the first round of the 2011 A-Sun Men's Golf Championship Monday afternoon at the Chateau Course at the Chateau Elan Resort.
Hopper's performance, and a strong effort up and down the lineup, propelled Upstate to a 285 on Monday and into a tie for second in the 54-hole conference championship. The Spartans are tied with North Florida and Campbell, five strokes behind tournament leader Kennesaw State (280).
Upstate, UNF and Campbell are just a shot ahead of Florida Gulf Coast (286). Belmont is sixth at 291 and is followed by East Tennessee State (293), Mercer (294), Stetson (294), Jacksonville (298) and Lipscomb (298). The Spartans are off to their best start in the A-Sun Championships and are looking to improve on last year's program-best sixth-place finish.
"Today was fun," said Upstate head coach Todd Lawton. "Our April tournament schedule had beaten us up a little. But, the guys were relaxed, smiling and played intelligent golf today. It's a good time to have a strong opening round.
"This course has some extremely demanding tee shots. Near perfect accuracy is an understatement. I've seen each of our players play well individually in tournaments and some as a team. A key to our finish today was counting a 74 as our fourth score. The A-Sun has several teams with NCAA Regional and National experience. I am excited our guys will play with some of them tomorrow."
Hopper was simply outstanding on Monday. He birdied the par-5 third hole and finished the front nine at 1-under-par. He caught fire on the back nine, recording five birdies with a bogey to finish the back nine at 4-under and the round at 5-under-par 66. The 66 ties former Spartan great Josh Gallman and current Spartan McKenzie Oref for the low round in program history. Hopper will take a one-stroke lead into the second round on Tuesday. There are 11 players who finished under par in the first round.
"I couldn't be happier for Matthew," said Lawton. "He's a great ball-striker and has had so many rounds this year that could have been lower except that his putter didn't cooperate. Today, he hit the shots and made putts. Shooting 66 and leading builds a lot of confidence for tomorrow. Matthew is a great competitor and will look forward to the opportunity."
While Hopper led Upstate on the day, his teammates came through to push the team into second place after the first round. Tyler Comer (Pacolet Mills, S.C.) opened with a 1-over 72. He had four birdies and five bogeys in the round. Adam Goins (Gaffney, S.C.) birdied the par-5 third hole to go out at 1-under, but made three bogeys on the back nine. Still, his 73 was a strong round in his first A-Sun Championship appearance and is tied for 21st.
Brian Horton (Boiling Springs, S.C.) posted four birdies and four bogeys, but a triple on the par-4 11th took his score to a 3-over 74. He is tied for 31st in the tournament. Also making his first A-Sun Tournament appearance was Brad Sill (Spartanburg, S.C.). He carded a 75 on the day and is tied for 35th.