April 16, 2009
ATLANTA – Looking for its third title in the last four years, Georgia Tech’s golf team carries the momentum of a third-place finish in its own tournament last week into this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in New London, N.C.
Tech has not won a tournament this year, finishing no higher than second in the fall and third in the spring, yet has faced the strongest schedule of any team in the country this year, competing against more top-25 teams than any other Division I institution. The Yellow Jackets have performed well enough against that competition to earn a No. 6 national ranking heading into its conference tournament.
The 54-hole event is being contested for the 13th time at the Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point, a 7,100-yard, par 72 layout around Badin Lake in Albemarle County, about 50 miles North of Charlotte. Tech has captured four of its 10 ACC titles on this golf course, most recently sharing honors with Virginia Tech (2007) and North Carolina (2006). The Jackets finished fourth last year as Florida State claimed the championship.
Live scoring and tee times are available at the official ACC Tournament championship site, and live video coverage can be viewed online from 2-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. See links below.
Tee times begin at 8:30 a.m. each day, and the Yellow Jackets begin play at 11:10 a.m. Friday. Saturday’s and Sunday’s tee times are based on cumulative results at the end of the previous day.
Tech comes into the tournament on the heels of a third-place showing at the United States Collegiate Championship, an event played on its home course at the Golf Club of Georgia with a field that include the nation’s top nine teams and 11 of the top 13. It was the Yellow Jackets’ best performance of the spring, which includes a tie for sixth at the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas (11 top-25 teams), and a fifth-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic (seven top-25 teams).
All-American Cameron Tringale, Tech’s fourth-best finisher at the USCC with a tie for 41st, nevertheless has had an outstanding year, winning two tournaments and finishing in the top 10 in three others. He won the Southern Highlands Collegiate by five strokes in mid-March with an 11-under-par score of 205. A senior from Laguna Niguel, Calif., Tringale is the nation’s third-ranked player in this week’s Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, is third in the ACC in scoring average (71.63) with half of his 24 rounds this year at par or under
A semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award, Tringale will attempt to win his second ACC title, something only David Duval (1991, 1993) has done at Tech.
Head coach Bruce Heppler also will send senior David Dragoo of Scottsdale, Ariz., sophomore John-Tyler Griffin of Wilson, N.C., and junior Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, N.C., all of whom posted top-20 finishes at the USCC, to compete for Tech. Dragoo and Griffin have suited up for all eight Tech tournaments this year, while Hadley, who has played in just six events, may be regaining the form that earned him second-team All-America honors last spring.
Dragoo is the nation’s 66th-ranked player with four top-20 finishes this year and a stroke average of 73.79. Griffin has a pair of top-5 finishes, including a tie for fourth at the USCC, and averages 74.29 strokes per round. Hadley, with a tie for 19th at the USCC, has three top-20 finishes in six tournaments and a stroke average of 75.05.
“Hopefully we’ll play our best golf of the year,” said Heppler. “I think everyone has improved this spring. It was great to have Chesson back playing the way we know he can at the USCC. If we can get the same kinds of results from Chesson, David and J.T. at the conference tournament, then we can be competitive.
“If you look at our results from Hilo forward, there’s been a steady improvement. We’ve tried to play the best schedule we can, so we can go into the post-season having seen everything we can.”
Freshman James White of Acworth, Ga., who tied for sixth place at Southern Highlands with an 8-under-par score of 208, claimed the fifth spot on Tech’s travel squad by one shot in a qualifying shootout with fellow freshman Minghao Wang. White has averaged 75.06 strokes in 18 rounds this year.
The race for the title would appear to be wide open, with only Clemson (No. 5) ahead of the Jackets in the ratings, followed by NC State (24), Florida State (25), Wake Forest (29), Duke (43) and Virginia (49) among the top 50 teams.
“I think there are six or seven teams that have a chance, and if any one of them have a good putting week, they can win,” said Heppler. “If the winner comes from that group, nothing would surprise me. You have to have a good putting tournament to win. You’ve got to make birdie putts on this golf course.”
Tech’s ACC Championship History
Georgia Tech has competed in 27 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championships, having won or shared the title 10 times. All 10 of Tech’s titles have come since 1985, more than any other ACC school in that period (Clemson has won eight). Tech has won five ACC titles under its current head coach, Bruce Heppler, most recently sharing the title with North Carolina (2006) and Virginia Tech (2007).
The Yellow Jackets have won or shared four of the 12 championships played at its current location, the Old North State Club in New London, N.C., which has been the site of the conference championship 12 of the last 13 years dating back to 1995.
Tech’s titles under Heppler occurred in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007. The 2001 championship was won at Disney’s Magnolia Course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the other four at the Old North State Club. Tech also has been the runner-up in the ACC Championship seven times, three times under Heppler.
Individually, five different Yellow Jackets have won ACC championships, including current senior Cameron Tringale, who became the first Tech freshman to win the title in 2006 with a 10-under-par score of 206. Also winning ACC titles were Bryce Molder (2000), Mikko Rantanen (1994), David Duval (1991, 1993) and Bob McDonnell (1985).