SPORTS OF SOUTH CAROLINA

A game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia
South Carolina has no major professional franchise of the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS, or MLB located in the state; however the NFL's Carolina Panthers (based in Charlotte, North Carolina), and the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes (based in Raleigh, North Carolina) represent both North and South Carolina. In addition, the Panthers played their first season in Clemson, and maintain training facilities at Wofford College in Spartanburg.

There are numerous minor league teams that are either based in the state, or play much of their schedule within its borders. The Charlotte Knights, an AAA minor league baseball team, play at a stadium in Fort Mill, South Carolina, just across the border from Charlotte. Another minor league franchise is the USL Division 1 Soccer team, the Charleston Battery. The team plays in the soccer-specific Blackbaud Stadium, located on Daniel Island in Charleston. Currently, only Greenville, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston still boast any other level (in each case single-A) of professional baseball. Curiously enough, for a state where natural ice is a rarity, professional ice hockey has been popular in a number of areas of the state since the 1990s. Though 4 teams competed at one time in South Carolina, the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) currently oversees operations of only two franchises, one, the Columbia Inferno, the other, the South Carolina Stingrays (who play in Charleston). According to the league, however, Myrtle Beach is slated to receive a franchise when their new arena is completed in 2008/9.

College sports in particular are very big in South Carolina. Clemson University's Tigers and the University of South Carolina's Gamecocks regularly draw more than 80,000 spectators at the schools' home football games. Smaller universities located in South Carolina also have very competitive sports programs, including The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, Francis Marion, Furman, Anderson University, North Greenville University, Presbyterian College, Lander University, SC State, Southern Wesleyan University, Spartanburg Methodist College, USC Upstate, Winthrop, Wofford.

NASCAR racing was born in the South, and South Carolina has in the past hosted some very important NASCAR races, at the Darlington Raceway. Darlington Raceway still has the one NASCAR race weekend, usually Mother's Day weekend. All four of NASCAR's series come to Darlington including Whelen, Camping World Trucks, Nationwide Cars, and Sprint Cup cars.

South Carolina is a popular golf destination. Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand has more than a hundred golf courses. Myrtle Beach has more public golf courses per capita than any other place in the country. Some have hosted PGA and LGPA events in the past, but most have been designed for the casual golfer. Hilton Head Island & Kiawah Island have several very nice golf courses and host professional events every year. The upstate of South Carolina also has many nice golf courses, most of the nicer courses are private including the Cliff's courses and Cross Creek Plantation (the Cliff's courses host the annual BMW PRO/AM that brings many celebrities and professionals to South Carolina. Cross Creek Plantation located in Seneca, also private hosted a PGA Qualifier in the 90's). Oconee Country Club also in Seneca, is an extremely nice course, very well-kept, and is open to the public. In 2007, "The Ocean Course" On Kiawah Island was ranked #1 in Golf Digest Magazine's "America's 50 Toughest Golf Courses"and #38 on their "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses".

Watersports are also an extremely popular activity in South Carolina. With a large coast line, South Carolina has many different beach activities such as surfing, boogie boarding, deep sea fishing, and shrimping. The Pee Dee region of the state offers exceptional fishing. Some of the largest catfish ever caught were caught in the Santee Lakes. The Upstate of South Carolina also offers outstanding water activities. The Midlands region also offers water-based recreation revolving around Lakes Marion and Murray and such rivers as the Congaree, Saluda, Broad, and Edisto. While there are no race tracks with betting in South Carolina there is significant horse training activity, particularly in Aiken and Camden, which hold steeplechase races. Professional bass fishing tournaments are also found in South Carolina. Lake Hartwell, Lake Wylie, and Lake Murray both host Bassmasters Classic tournaments.

Luciano Mende

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