By Richard Eckstrom
South Carolina has had a remarkable presence in the national spotlight lately:
• For a few months, the national titles in three major college sports belonged to S.C. teams – the outgoing champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleer baseball team as well as the reigning champion Clemson football and USC women’s basketball teams. And the USC men’s basketball program certainly gave fans a thrilling ride, making it to the Final Four for the first time ever.
• Debbie Antonelli, a Mount Pleasant resident and one of the nation’s top television basketball analysts, made national news when she was chosen as a commentator for this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. She’s the first woman to call the tournament since 1995.
• In April, S.C. native and former USC golfer Wesley Bryan won his first PGA Tour victory at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, securing a spot in the 2018 Masters. In his rise to prominence in the sport, he joins fellow South Carolinian and former Coastal Carolina golfer Dustin Johnson, currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
• Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow briefly played baseball for the Class A minor league Columbia Fireflies. In his very first at-bat in April, he hit a home run, making the night’s highlight reels and bringing a rare level of exposure to the second-year Fireflies team.
• In May, golfers from four S.C. colleges – Furman, College of Charleston, Clemson and USC – represented S.C. in the NCAA Division Women’s Golf Championships. Only California, which has five times as many schools as our state, had a larger presence at the tournament.
• In June, proud South Carolinian Darius Rucker celebrated his eighth No. 1 hit as a country performer.
• South Carolinians are leaving their mark on national politics, with three of our own occupying positions of tremendous influence in federal government: Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Mick Mulvaney as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Congressman Trey Gowdy as chairman of the all-important House Oversight Committee.
Beyond headlines, there’s much value in seeing our home state represented on the national stage. It’s a source of pride, a boost in our shared self-image, a reminder of what’s possible. When people with whom we share a common bond achieve great things, it can inspire us to set high standards for ourselves.
I can remember a time, not long ago at all, when we were frequently told how outsiders looked down their noses at South Carolina. Political figures often spoke of needing to work to “change the perception” of our state. But if occupying the limelight is a measure of stature, I’d say South Carolina has much to be proud of – and much to be envied.
Richard Eckstrom is a CPA and the state’s comptroller.