The 2003 National Championship
Under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Larry Penley, Clemson won its first ever NCAA Golf Championship and fourth NCAA team title in school history with its victory at Karsten Creek on May 30, 2003, the home course of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
While college golf may not have the biggest following, you have to take your hat off to the Clemson golf program. They are tradionally one of the strongest teams in the nation, reaching the NCAA Tournament 22 consecutive years.
Larry Penley was named National Coach of the Year by the Golf Coach's Association and he was the first Clemson coach in any sport to win a National Coach of the Year award since Bob Pollock was named Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1992.
Clemson had three players named to All-America teams at the conclusion of the season. D.J. Trahan was named first team, Jack Ferguson was a second-team selection and Matt Hendrix was a third team choice. Gregg Jones was an all-district selection along with the aforementioned players. All four were also named All-ACC.
The Hiring of Oliver Purnell
While we knew going in that Coach Purnell would have his work cut out for him early on, little did we know that he'd bring in a top 25 recruiting class for 2004 and also secure the verbal commitment of one of the top players in the nation in Joey Cameron for the 2005 class.
Purnell has done what other coaches have failed to do at Clemson in the past- recruit. This year's team may not light it up on the floor, but it won't be long until Purnell turns this thing around.
Sam Perry, Cheyenne Moore, and James Mays are players you can count on making an impact next season on the hardwood.
"I think that anytime you come into a situation like this, the image of our program both externally and internally needs to match reality," told me an interview back in early October. "This is a program that I would consider a sleeping giant. This is a program that can be good, and that has been good. Cliff Ellis won here, Bill Foster won here, Rick Barnes won here. But the perception externally is that Clemson hasn't won. That's just not true. It's just that the stability hasn't been there for a long period of time."
If Oliver Purnell doesn't get you excited about the future of Clemson basketball, nothing will.
Touchdown Derrick Hamilton
Years from now we'll all look back and realize just how special the Clemson receiving corps are right now. Led by Derrick Hamilton, the Tigers reached new heights in 2003, including a win over the highest ranked team in school history (#3 Florida State) and and 46-point romp over archrival South Carolina. (both wins incidentally came on national television)
Hamilton led the Tigers with 57 catches for 957 yards and 10 touchdowns and set the standard for a group of athletes that has to be considered as one of the best to ever hit the field in Death Valley.
From jumping into the stands after a 59-yard scoring strike against FSU, to a 100-yard kickoff return that changed the momentum of the North Carolina game, Derrick Hamilton left Tiger fans breathless with his fantastic junior year.
Thank You Charlie
Charlie Whitehurst proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the future of Clemson football and the top returning quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004. The 6-foot-4, 206 pound signal caller set a whole host of single season passing records this year, but just as important, he was instrumental in leading the Tigers back to the upper echelon of the ACC.
He also saved his finest moment for the last game of the regular season, pulverizing South Carolina by completing 18-of-26 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers' 63-17 rompfest.
Whitehurst is all that is right with college football. He's humble, well composed, and a rock solid football player with an unbeatable future.
Perhaps it's an understatement when I say that it will be nothing other than a pleasure to cover his progress over the course of the next two seasons on his way into the National Football League.
And Finally, Thank You Lou
Our final favorite moment of 2003 could be nothing else the 63-17 demolition of the South Carolina Gamecocks, in their own back yard, on national television.
With Tommy Bowden officially ending his term on the hot seat, the Clemson Tigers dominated from start to finish, even winning the coin toss in a 46-point victory over the Gamecocks.
South Carolina's head man himself said it best in the locker room when admitted that he his team had been beaten in every phase of the game. "I am as embarrassed as I have ever been," said Holtz. "I congratulate Clemson. This is the longest day I have ever been involved in."
Within a matter of days, almost half of the assistant coaches were fired or either re-assigned.
Despite two years of supposedly "out-recruiting" their upstate counterpart, the Gamecocks once again ended the year 5-7, and home for the holidays.
'Tis the season!
Favorite Moments of 2003
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