Feb. 20, 2016
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s golf team returns to action for its second event of the spring season this weekend, traveling to Rio Grande, Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Classic, which begins Sunday.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION — Georgia Tech is making its 16th appearance in the Puerto Rico Classic, typically the second event on the Yellow Jackets’ spring schedule after its opening trip to Hawai’I, and is making its 23rd all-time trip to Puerto Rico for a collegiate event. The 54-hole event runs from Sunday through Tuesday with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. each day. It is played at the 7,074-yard, par 72 River Course at the Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort.
The 15 teams in the field are all ranked among the nation’s top 100 in the Golfstat rankings, and includes nine of the nation’s top 50 teams — Georgia (10), Clemson (11), Oklahoma (14), Purdue (15), Alabama (17), North Carolina (20), Kentucky (28), NC State (37), Georgia Tech (50), Michigan (55), Northwestern (58), UNC Greensboro (66), Virginia Tech (83), Maryland (81) and Minnesota (92).
The Yellow Jackets have finished second in the Puerto Rico Classic each of the last two years, posting a 5-under-par score of 859 last year and a 41-under-par 823 in 2014. Tech has won the tournament four times, most recently in 2005. Individual Tech champions include Troy Matteson (2002), Roberto Castro (2007) and James White (2011).
TEAM UPDATE — Georgia Tech is ranked No. 50 in the latest Golfstat rankings and No. 35 in the Golfweek Sagarin Index after the first spring event in which the Yellow Jackets finished 12th in a 19-team field at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawai’i. Tech has a 46-34 won-loss record cumulatively this year against a scheduled rated the ninth-toughest in the country, and a 13-20-1 mark against top-25 teams.
Tech has faced more top-25 teams this year (34) than any team above it in the Sagarin Index except No. 7 Stanford (also 34).
The Yellow Jackets posted high finishes of fifth place at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and the United States Collegiate Championship in the fall. Tech also tied for seventh at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Challenge Cup and closed with a 10th-place finish at the rain-shortened Kiawah Classic.
TECH LINEUP — Head coach Bruce Heppler will take his top five scoring average leaders to Puerto Rico, led by junior Vincent Whaley (McKinney, Texas), who has a pair of top-5 finishes to his credit this year, including a tie for fifth at the Amer Ari Invitational. His 9-under-par score of 207 was a 54-hole career low. He is ranked No. 103 in the Golfwek/Sagarin Index, and leads the Jackets with a 72.50 stroke average.
Also on the trip are sophomore Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.), who is ranked No. 53 in the Sagarin Index on the strength of his victory at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in the fall. Joiner, who did not go to Hawai’i, has a team-best personal win-loss percentage of 77.0 and is second on the team in stroke average at 72.54.
Rounding out the travel team are junior Michael Hines (Acworth, Ga.), who tied for 52nd in Hawai’i and sophomores James Clark (Columbus, Ga.) and Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.). Clark (12th) and Petefish (27th) each recorded their top finishes of the year at the Carpet Capital Collegiate.
James Clark is No. 3 in stroke average at 73.3.
COACH Bruce Heppler SAYS — “We’ve focused a lot more on practice than competition in preparation for this tournament. We didn’t qualify for this tournament, and we’re taking our five low guys in terms of scoring average. We’ve made some good progress; we’ll see how it translates on the course and hopefully keep getting better as we go.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 21st year 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). For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.