Nov. 10, 2016
THE FLATS – Three highly-regarded junior golfers from the class of 2017 – Will Dickson of Providence, R.I., Noah Norton of Chico, Calif., and Ben Smith of Novi, Mich. – have signed national letters-of-intent to play at Georgia Tech, head coach Bruce Heppler announced.
All three prospects are ranked No. 2 among all junior golfers in their respective states and among the top 160 junior players from all classes nationally, according to the Junior Golf Scoreboard. Dickson, ranked No. 72 in his class, and Smith, ranked 99th, both qualified for this year’s United States Amateur Championship. Dickson and Norton, No. 7 in his class, both qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
“As we all know, there’s never been a coach who doesn’t like his recruits. Certainly, we don’t want to put pressure on guys 10 months before they arrive, but I think this is one of the best groups we’ve ever signed. They’re all from out of state, but they all saw the value in our program, our facilities and our academics, and, most importantly, they believe this is where they can achieve their goals.”
Heppler’s squad, which has won six of the last nine Atlantic Coast Conference championships and has reached NCAA Championship match play three of the last six years, will graduate two seniors in May.
Will Dickson, Providence, R.I., Moses Brown High School
Dickson is ranked 114th overall, 72nd in the class of 2017, and No. 2 in the state of Rhode Island according to the Junior Golf Scoreboard, and ranked 88th nationally by the American Junior Golf Association.
A qualifier for the U.S. Amateur in August and the U.S. Junior Amateur in July, Dickson advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur, losing to eventual champion Will Zalatoris. He also finished seventh at the 2016 Junior Orange Bowl International Championship. Dickson won his third consecutive state high school championship in June and became the second Rhode Island golfer since the mid-1960s to accomplish that feat. Dickson, who also swims freestyle and backstroke events on the Moses Brown High School team, won the 2012 Rhode Island Junior Amateur at age 13.
Coach Heppler says – “Will was able to play in a lot of the bigger junior and amateur events early because of his physical development. He committed to us early in the process. He had some success at the Northeast Amateur and some good, positive success in USGA events. Prior to last summer, he spent time working at a caddie camp to network, meet important people and just work, which limited his ability to play in a lot of events. He’s more than ready to play some college golf.”
Noah Norton, Chico, Calif., Pleasant Valley High School
Norton is ranked 11th overall, 7th in the class of 2017, and No. 2 in the state of California according to the Junior Golf Scoreboard, and was named a second-team Rolex All-American for 2016 by the American Junior Golf Association.
Norton made the field for the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur after sharing medalist honors with 66-70–136 at the Fresno, Calif., sectional qualifier. He also shot a 67 in the U.S. Open local qualifying at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz to advance to sectional play. Norton, a senior at Pleasant Valley High School, tied for fourth in the 2015 California state championship and finished 16th in 2016. He posted a top-five finish in the NCGA/CIF Nor Cal Championship for the second consecutive year and tied for 16th in the 2016 CIF State Championship.
Norton captured the Chico City Championship on Sept. 25. He followed that up with his biggest victory to date, a 3-shot win Monday at the AJGA Ping Invitational at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Oklahoma. The prestigious tournament features the top 50 ranked junior golfers in the world and by winning it Norton joined some elite company. With the victory, the Pleasant Valley High School senior is now ranked as the 11th-best junior golfer in the world, according to Junior Golf Scoreboard, and he also scored some exemptions into future amateur events.
Coach Heppler says – “[Former assistant coach Brennan] Webb first saw Noah at the 2015 Western Junior. He didn’t see him hit a lot of shots, but thought he looked like a Georgia Tech guy. Based on that thought, we flew out to San Diego to watch him play at the Junior Worlds. I was impressed with his optimism, his enthusiasm and his energy level. He visited us in the fall of 2015 and fell in love with Georgia Tech. He wanted to commit on the spot, but we made him go home and think about it. He called us two days later to commit. Over the last 12 months, he has played as well as any junior player in the country.”
Ben Smith, Novi, Mich., Detroit Catholic Central
Smith is ranked 158th overall, 99th in the class of 2017, and No. 2 in the state of Michigan according to the Junior Golf Scoreboard.
He qualified for 2016 U.S. Amateur by finishing second in his sectional, and earned five top-10 finishes in 12 events in 2016 and was ranked at one time among the top 50 junior in the country by the American Junior Golf Association. Smith earned all-state Super Team honors and led Detroit Catholic to state titles in 2015 and 2016, finishing in the top five individually both times. Among his victories as a junior player were the 2016 Michigan Junior Amateur, the 2015 AJGA Philadelphia Runner Junior at Saucon Valley and the 2013 Michigan Optimist International.
Coach Heppler says – “Ben was paired with Will Dickson in his first AJGA event. Ben got the better of Will that day and won the tournament. A couple of days later, Will’s Dad called and said we should do some research on Ben, because he seemed like a Georgia Tech type of person. That AJGA victory got him an invitation to play the Polo event last Thanksgiving at PGA National. We saw him play for a couple of days and were impressed with his fundamentals, from putting to chipping to driving. He looked fantastic.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is entering its 22nd under head coach Bruce Heppler. The Yellow Jackets have won 16 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 28 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up four times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GT_Golf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.