Catching Up With... Carlton Forrester

June 30, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

It seems hard to believe, but there was a time when Georgia Tech Golf did NOT win the ACC Golf Championship every year.

Believe it or not, there actually was a stretch when the Yellow Jackets went five years without winning a conference crown. The drought led to the hiring of current golf head coach Bruce Heppler and the recruiting of an absolutely loaded team that started a run of excellence that continues today.

It was a group that, in 2000, came within a stroke of winning the national championship, losing in a playoff to Oklahoma State, and also earned the rank of No. 1 in the nation.

Every team that successful usually has at least three stars and this class of Yellow Jackets was no exception. In addition to current PGA stars Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder, there was that all-important third star in Gainesville, Ga., native Carlton Forrester, who did his thing from 1997 through 2000.

Forrester was named the Watts Gunn Award Winner for Tech’s Most Improved Player in 1998, then kept on improving, earning Honorable Mention All-America in 1999 and 2000, and All-ACC in 1999. In the 2000 NCAAs he tied for 14th, Tech’s top finish (tied with Kuchar) in the East Regional, then, in the NCAA Finals, he finished tied for 15th. He graduated with a 73.30 stroke average (in 127 rounds), which ranks 16th in school history, and had low rounds of 64, tied for the fourth-lowest round, and two 65s, tied for fifth-lowest in school history.

Forrester could play then and still can, playing in several amateur events annually. He was runner-up at the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur and was medalist at the 2006 Mid-Amateur.

He graduated from Tech, but never left Atlanta, which is still is home for him and his two sons.

Forrester is in the middle of a life renaissance of sorts. He bounced back from the tragic loss of his first wife, a victim of brain cancer around two years ago, having remarried on May 5th. He’ll start a new career opportunity in August, and, in October, will be inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Forrester, who finished at -9 (tied for eighth) over the weekend in the Dogwood Invitational, played at Druid Hills Country Club — Ollie Schniederjans was Tech’s top finisher at -11 (tied for fifth) — talked with Sting Daily about his past at Georgia Tech, his present, including his family and new career opportunities, and the future of the program and his reunion with Kuchar and Molder.

STING DAILY: What is the most enjoyable part about playing in amateur events?

COLIN FORRESTER: It’s fun. I get a kick out of it, being 35 years old, going back and playing with the college kids. They look at me and see an older guy and nobody thinks an older guy is going to keep up with them. It’s always fun testing your game against the young guns.

STING: You make 35 sound ancient.

FORRESTER: It feels like it when you’re playing against 20-year-olds. You’re 15, 16, 17 years older than a lot of these kids so you sound like you’re grandad out there. (laughs)

STING: Can your experience teach younger players? Do you find yourself learning from them?

FORRESTER: I think so. Golf is a game and the more experience you’ve got the better. You look at guys on the PGA Tour. A guy I graduated with, Matt Kuchar. He’s playing the best golf of his life right now and he’s 33, 34 years old. So, I think you peak out probably in your mid-to-late 30s. I think that’s because of experience and learning how to play and what works with your golf swing and what works for your short game, your putting and whatnot. I think you’re able to think around the golf course a little bit better and have a little bit more patience than some of the younger kids tend to have.

STING: What does being chosen for induction into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame mean to you?

FORRESTER: Somebody was joking with me it’s the closest I’m going to get to the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s the highest honor that I’m probably going to get in my lifetime for golf accomplishments. Being in the Hall of Fame of an institution like Georgia Tech is a tremendous honor. You just look at some of the names. Mark Teixeira getting in last year, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder. You look at those names, and it’s not just golf but football, basketball, baseball. You realize you’re in an elite club with those guys and it makes all the hard work that you put in over the years worth it to have that kind of honor.

STING: What is your favorite memory of your Georgia Tech days? How did it feel to help resurrect the Golf Program?

FORRESTER: The best thing was the people. The coach, Bruce Heppler, and our teammates, we all stay in touch with each other, we all pull for each other, whatever we’re doing and we’re still all friends with each other. We had a close cohesive group of smart guys that are all doing well either in business or on the PGA Tour. We were just blessed that Coach put such great guys together. My most fond memories were just the times that we had on and off the golf course and the friendships that we made.

STING: You played a key role, but tended to be overshadowed by Kuchar and Molder. Did that bother you?

FORRESTER: I looked at it as a positive because I never had much pressure on me. Those guys were always coming in with low scores and it kind of freed me up to do well. There was never any jealousy. We always worked toward trying to win an NCAA Championship. Unfortunately, we went into a sudden-death playoff with Oklahoma State and lost in the playoff. The goal wasn’t trying to beat each other. It was to try to win a national championship and we came awfully close. Unfortunately, I think about it a lot of times, just coming up one shot short. We all tried our hardest and we all put a lot of work in for a number of years and we did our best. That’s all you can do in this game. I think everybody left it on the field, so to speak, and we accomplished a lot. We were ranked No. 1 while I was there and we won a lot of golf tournaments. We accomplished a lot. It sure would have been nice to have gotten that national championship, but when I look back I still feel like we were one of the best college golf teams in the history of college golf.

STING: How nice will it be to have you, Bryce and Matt together again in the Hall of Fame?

FORRESTER: It’s going to be awesome. It’s getting to be an annual tradition. We may have a nice run of All-American golfers, with some of the guys the coaches recruited. It’s fun, all of us getting back together once a year. It’s really cool to do that. I’m not sure who’s going to introduce me, yet. I have to think about that.

STING: What made you choose Georgia Tech?

FORRESTER: The institution is such a high-quality place. Getting a degree from there means a lot. The college golf coach who recruited me was “Puggy” Blackmon and he was a great motivator. He convinced me that Georgia Tech was the right place for me to be, both academically and for golf, having the best chance of being on the PGA Tour.

STING: Are you enjoying seeing the program’s current run?

FORRESTER: Oh yeah. But it’s not just the caliber of golf but the caliber of kids that Coach Heppler continues to recruit. All of them are great guys. I was fortunate enough to play with Ollie Schniederjans and Richy Werenski this week. What great kids. First-class guys, great golf games, smart kids. I had a lot of fun being with a couple of youngsters. You look at those guys and think, ‘That was me 15 years ago.’ Great kids living the dream at Georgia Tech.

STING: What kind of things did you talk about?

FORRESTER: We had some nice stories. We were talking about some of the ways that we did things. We had some good stories. I talked a good bit about what it was like going there and all that good stuff. We had a lot of great conversation.

STING: When the time comes, will you try to direct your sons to Georgia Tech?

FORRESTER: That’s a good question. It was fun seeing my six-year-old come out to the golf course. He had a Georgia Tech belt on and a golf shirt. He had seen a couple of young kids out there and wanted to know how old you needed to be to caddie. I hope I can be so fortunate for him to follow in those footsteps.

STING: What are you doing now?

FORRESTER: I’m taking a job August 1st with a group called Asset Preservation Advisors. It’s a municipal bond money management firm. They manage a couple of billion dollars of municipal bond portfolios.

I just got married on May 5th. My late wife died of brain cancer about two years ago, when my kids were really young, and I was fortunate enough to get married to a great girl from New Jersey. Her maiden name was Katie Murphy, so now she’s Katie Forrester. The boys have a great mother figure in their lives. They love her and she loves them and I’m so very fortunate about that.

STING: How many events do you get to play in a year?

FORRESTER: It’s fun to play in a couple of events. Fortunately, I’ve got a month off here before I start this new job and I can play a little bit of golf right now but it’s tough juggling family and work and golf at a high level. I’m going to play in the Players Amateur in a week and a half and hopefully can make some noise down there.

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