Smith Knaffle

St. James High School's Smith Knaffle watches her tee shot in a round at River Hills Golf Plantation. 

St. James High’s Smith Knaffle has had plenty of time to get used to the idea of playing golf at the University of South Carolina after committing to the Gamecocks last year.

But at last Friday’s signing ceremony, surrounded by loved ones and watching a video presentation of her many accomplishments, it finally sank in like a 3-foot putt.

“It was awesome having all my friends and family there, and the video was so sweet,” said Knaffle, one of the most decorated athletes to come out of the Grand Strand.

“My mom went to South Carolina, all my family on my mom’s side are big Gamecock fans, and my dad is from up North but he’s adopted them too. It really hit home how happy I am about it.”

Knaffle led the Lady Sharks to three straight state championships (2015-17), won two individual state titles (2016-17), and turned in a stellar career on the junior golf circuit that saw her compete with the best in the nation.

Although her senior season didn’t quite measure up to her past achievements (St. James finished fourth in the Class 5A state tournament and Knaffle placed ninth), she leaves with high hopes for the future.

“Our whole season was pretty much cancelled because of (Hurricane Florence) and it put us a step behind everyone else,” Knaffle said. “Looking back on it as a senior, it was a fun experience, but now it’s on to next level.”

Knaffle was one of more than a dozen Horry County Schools student-athletes to finalize their college plans during last week’s early signing period. National Signing Day is in February.

Conway High pitcher Will Smith will have a short commute to campus to play baseball at Coastal Carolina University. The right-hander had previously committed to Furman but turned heads in his junior season to attract attention from his hometown school.

Carolina Forest High had five student-athletes sign, including three baseball players – Mike Foltz (Duke) Chase Hughes (Presbyterian) and Blake Cox (Erskine). Chris Fortenberry (Lander) inked a golf scholarship, while Abigail Gross (Coker College) signed for lacrosse.

Myrtle Beach High also had five student-athletes, including girls basketball standout Asia Smith (Charleston Southern), volleyball star Gracie Davis (Presbyterian), and boys lacrosse player Bishop Anderson (Newberry). Boys tennis players Josh Wallen and John Ed Cahill will remain teammates at the next level by attending The Citadel.

Aynor High senior softball standout Layna Johnson signed with Presbyterian following a remarkable high school career that included a 2015 state championship and five straight district titles.

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