Golf Team Opens Spring Slate on the Big Island of Hawaii

Feb. 1, 2010

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ATLANTA – Making its spring debut in Hawai’i for the 12th consecutive year, Georgia Tech travels West to take on 12 of the nation’s top 30 schools in the Mauna Lani Invitational, Feb. 3-5, on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island.

The 22-team field for this event, in which Tech has participated every year since 1998, is the strongest it has ever been. They will play 54 holes over three days, using a shotgun start each day. Live scoring can be followed at www.golfstat.com. Head coach Bruce Heppler’s team, which finished the fall with a victory at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate, has won this event five times, most recently in 2006.

No. 1 Oklahoma State makes its spring debut and will encounter some stiff competition not only from Tech, but from No, 2 Stanford, No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Florida State. Other solid contenders include Arizona State (7), Washington (8), UCLA (13), Texas (15), USC (16), Oregon State (17), Texas Tech (19) and Oregon (29).

“This is the 25th anniversary, so they’ve worked really hard to get everybody back that’s ever played in it, or played in the first one,” said Heppler. “It’s always had a pretty good field, and I would think at least seven or eight of the top twelve. So I think they made an effort to bring back some people who haven’t really been there in a while and it just made it even better.”

Juniors John-Tyler Griffin leads Tech’s travel team along with junior Kyle Scott, sophomore James White, freshman Bo Andrews and junior Paul Haley.

Griffin enjoyed a very successful fall campaign, posting three top-10 finishes in four events and leading the Yellow Jackets with a 70.2 stroke average in 10 rounds. Nine of his 10 rounds were at par or under, and six of them were in the 60s. The Wilson, N.C., native tied for fourth at the Mason Rudolph Collegiate and the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate, and tied for second at the Brickyard Collegiate.

Scott, a transfer from West Florida, posted a pair of top-10 finishes in the fall for the Yellow Jackets, tying for 10th at the Mason Rudolph and finishing ninth at UNCG, and had the Jackets’ fourth-best stroke average at 72.0. White, with two top-20 finishes in three fall tournaments, compiled the team’s second-best stroke average in the fall at 71.43. The Acworth, Ga., native, who finished sixth at last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship as a freshman, earned his best finish of the fall at the UNCG Bridgestone (14th).

Andrews, from Raleigh, N.C., averaged 73.0 over eight rounds and posted a high finish of 21st, both at the Brickyard and the Bridgestone events. Haley, from Dallas, Texas, began the fall well with a tie for 14th at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, but struggled the rest of the way to a 73.43 stroke average in seven rounds.

But Heppler is impressed with the work his players have done over the course of the fall and the break and is enthusiastic about the Yellow Jackets’ prospects for the spring.

“I see guys working with each other, helping each other, and playing when we’re not requiring stuff, and I think over time that will make a huge difference,” said Heppler. “So even though the ranking’s probably as low as we’ve been in 7, 8, 9, 10 years – I think the play, if you really analyze it, is really better than that. And we’ll go see this semester where we fit in, but I think Coach (Christian) Newton and I are very enthused about what goes on everyday. We’ve got good players, and if they’ll put in the time, I think at the end of the year we’ll be very competitive.”

The Mauna Lani event begins Tech’s traditional spring trio of tournaments, which also includes the Puerto Rico Classic Feb. 21-23 and the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas, Nev., on Mar. 12-14. New to the spring slate are the Linger Longer Invitational, Mar. 26-28 in Greensboro, Ga., and the Wolfpack Invitational, Apr. 9-10 in Raleigh, N.C. The ACC Championship is Apr. 23-25 at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C. Tech hosts an NCAA Regional this year at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course (May 20-22), and the NCAA Championship is May 25-30 at the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

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