Ryan Carpenter had lots of options when it came to playing golf in college. The South Aiken High School senior had offers from more than a half dozen major programs interested in him, but he only needed to make one official visit to make up his mind.
Surrounded by friends, family and other supporters at the school library on Friday, Carpenter signed his letter of intent to attend the College of Charleston, where he expects to play immediately next year.
“I fell in love with the campus and fell in love with the golf program,” Carpenter said. “I feel like it’s a place where I can elevate my game to a pro level.”
Carpenter chose the College of Charleston over other suitors, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wofford and Furman. He said the coaching staff, led by head coach Mark McEntire, played a major role in his decision. He said he liked their approach to helping him with his game to the point that he can pursue a career as a professional golfer.
The facilities and the campus were also big factors for Carpenter. The Cougars play on some of the finest golf courses in the United States that are located in the greater Charleston area, courses that are often the sites of professional tournaments. Then there’s the lure of the city.
“Downtown Charleston is a good place to be,” Carpenter said with a sly smile, adding that it’s an ideal distance from home to give him freedom while being close enough to visit on short notice. “It’s not too close, it’s not too far. … King Street is where everything happens. Where we stay is just two streets down, and there’s so much life; it’s a lot of fun.”
Despite all the interesting things going on, the possible business management major will be focused on the tasks at hand – getting an education and raising his golf game to an even higher level. That won’t be easy for the player who has already accomplished so much as a junior.
He’s a two-time All-State selection and a three-time All-Region pick. Carpenter’s currently No. 8 in the South Carolina Junior Golf Association rankings and has several noteworthy performances on his résumé, including a win, four runner-up finishes and 10 top-five showings. He’s also part of a squad of elite squad of junior Palmetto State players participating in the Can-Am tournament, an international competition against a team of Canadian golfers.
All of those accolades are reasons why the player who’s a good ball striker and has good length off the tee had so many college choices. It’s also why he expects to have an immediate impact for the Cougars. Carpenter said he expects to be among the team’s top players as a freshman.
“I want to be an All-American,” Carpenter said of his expectations. “I think I can do it in my first year. The only way to achieve a goal is to believe in yourself, so that’s my expectation. … I want to break records there and contribute to the team as much as I can and represent the school.”
Drew Jernigan, head golf coach at South Aiken, believes that Carpenter’s up to the challenge.
“He’s got a lot of talent and works hard at it. He carries on a tradition of great golfers at this school,” Jernigan said, referring to Kevin Kisner, Matt Hendrix, Dane Burkhart, and Alex Hamilton – who have all gone from South Aiken to pro golf. “He’s aggressive but smart and will rise to the occasion. He’s equipped to handle the challenge because of his skills but also because he’s mentally tough.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.