Pacers take third swing at title on home course

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If the third time is the charm, USC Aiken will take it.

The Pacers play host to the Peach Belt Conference Golf Tournament on Monday and Tuesday at Houndslake Country Club in Aiken. In two previous attempts, USC Aiken failed to win the conference tournament in its own backyard.

"I think we have a good opportunity," USC Aiken athletic director Randy Warrick said. "We're playing at home. We should know the golf course better than the other teams."

After 11 regular-season events, the Pacers still are seeking their first win of the season.

USC Aiken, No. 5 in the latest Nike/GCAA Coaches Top 25 poll, is the highest-ranked team in the field. The Pacers are followed by No. 10 Georgia College & State, No. 12 Columbus State , No. 17 Armstrong Atlantic State, No. 20 Clayton State and No. 21 Lander.

The other team in the field, UNC Pembroke, is unranked. The Braves, however, will be vying for their first golf championship.

USC Aiken has posted four top-five finishes in seven spring events. The Pacers are looking to rebound from the rain-shortened Augusta State Invitational, where they finished 16th of 18 teams. USC Aiken, the lone Division II team in that field, shot rounds of 291-302.

The Pacers also are seeking their fifth Peach Belt Tournament title since 2002. USC Aiken has won seven conference tournament titles in Michael Carlisle's tenure. Former All-American Scott Brown will serve as acting coach in place of Carlisle, who's still recovering from Group A Strep Pneumonia.

After the event, USC Aiken will move on to the Division II Southeast Regional, May 5, in Belmont, N.C.

"What I like is we've had four players who've been playing pretty steady all year," Warrick said. "I know to win the Peach Belt and the regional and the national championship you have to have four strong scores. We've been fortunate with some consistent play."

Armstrong Atlantic State's Chris Wolfe enters the tournament as the top-ranked player in Division II. Wolfe won four events during the regular season and sports a 71.9 stroke average.

USC Aiken senior Jeff Goff (No. 5) is the top-ranked Pacer in the field. Goff's posted four top-10 finishes along with a 73.7 average.

USC Aiken junior Roberto Diaz (73.4) has six top-10 finishes. The 11th-ranked Diaz is looking to rebound from his worst tournament of the season -- he finished tied for 85th at the Augusta State Invitational.

Freshman J.P. Solis (No. 13), who owns a 74.9 average, sophomore Kevin Grady (76.7) and freshman Ashley Smith (76.3) round out the Pacers' lineup.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

PEACH BELT TOURNAMENT

WHERE: Houndslake County Club, Aiken


WHO: Armstrong Atlantic State (No. 17), Clayton State (No. 20), Columbus State (No. 12), Georgia College & State (No. 10), Lander (No. 21), UNC Pembroke and USC Aiken (No. 5)


WHEN: Two rounds, 8 a.m., Monday; final round, 8 a.m., Tuesday


LAST YEAR'S CHAMPION: Columbus State


NOTE: USC Aiken has won seven conference tournament titles but has never won as a host team. The Pacers are holding the event for the third time.


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