Golfers Take on Top Field in Las Vegas

March 10, 2011

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Las Vegas, Nev. – Coming off a second-place finish in the Puerto Rico Classic, Georgia Tech’s 4th-ranked golf team looks to continue its recent run of success this weekend at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, Nev.

Tech has participated in this event every spring since 1999. It features the strongest field the Yellow Jackets have yet faced this year, as well as the longest golf course, the 7,510-yard Southern Highlands Golf Club. The Yellow Jackets won the event in 2001 and 2002, but has not finished higher than sixth since. They tied for ninth last year, but went on to win the ACC Championship and reach match play in the NCAA Championship.

“The purpose of going out there is the golf course has proven to be very difficult,” said head coach Bruce Heppler, whose team enjoys its highest ranking since it ended the spring No. 4 in 2006. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to learn resolve and to stay optimistic is things aren’t going their way. Hopefully the rest of the year, they can deal with frustration when they’re playing championships. The other is to find the very best teams in the very best tournaments, and see how you do each time out. We want to seek those opportunities. It’s as good a test as any the entire year in how you respond to adversity.”

TECH UPDATE – Georgia Tech has finished fourth at the Amer Ari Invitational and second in the Puerto Rico Classic this spring, and has a 71-15 overall head-to-head record. The Yellow Jackets are ranked behind only Oklahoma State, Alabama and UCLA, and face two of them this weekend.

Three Tech players are ranked among the top 20 players in the nation – junior James White (10) and seniors John-Tyler Griffin (12) and Kyle Scott (17). White has victories at Puerto Rico and the United States Collegiate and top-10 finishes in four straight events. Griffin has five top-10s and has not finished below 14th in seven tournaments this year. Scott has three top-10s and no finish below 28th.

“We have three guys who can really play up front,” said Heppler. “Now that James has won a couple of tournaments, it helps everyone else believe that they can do it as well. It creates a different mindset when you’re 2-under-par for the day and still keep playing because you may not count. When you’re playing with guys who are playing well, you respond to that.”

Even Tech’s fourth and fifth players, senior Paul Haley and freshman Richard Werenski have five top-20 finishes between them. Tech’s average drop score this year is 74.98, which is better than any of the other teams in the nation’s top 25.

TOURNAMENT UPDATE – The 54-hole event is played at the 7,510-yard, par 72 Southern Highlands Golf Club, the longest course the Yellow Jackets play during the year. Teams tee off the first and 10th tees beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern time each day. The 15-team field includes (Golfweek national ranking in parentheses) Arizona, Arizona State (29), Baylor, California (20), Duke (21), Georgia (13), Georgia Tech (4), Oklahoma State (1), TCU (43), Texas (7), Texas A&M (11), Texas Tech, UCLA (3), UNLV, USC (27).

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