#STINGDAILY: From the Frying Pan into the Fire

Oct. 18, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Give Anders Albertson a certain choice, and he just might not make it. The Georgia Tech sophomore just knows he’s happy to play golf for Georgia Tech, period, home or away so long as the Yellow Jackets are going to compete with the best.

He’s especially jacked up today as the Jackets look for success in their fall season-ending U.S. Collegiate Championship.

That’s right, “their” tournament.

Tech is again hosting the seventh annual USCC, and oh, the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta is where the No. 13 Jackets practice half the time. The field will be stiff.

This will be the fourth and final event of the fall for Tech, and for the fourth time the Jackets will not leave Georgia. That amounts to a sea change in strategy for coach Bruce Heppler, who by the way is a big part of the brains behind the USCC.

So, Anders, do you wanna play at “home,” where you’ve played so many times, or travel to exotic locales like you have in trips to, say, Puerto Rico, Hawai’i or Las Vegas?

“I’m thankful to be able to play anywhere for this program and coach Heppler. It definitely is a little more relaxed, more of a home game feel,” Albertson said. “We play there three times a week. It is a tournament, but it feels like another practice. In that sense, it is a little weird. These three days, it has a title. It doesn’t change the course.”

Well, no it doesn’t.

The Jackets have had success at the Golf Club of Georgia and in the U.S. Collegiate, some years more than others.

That’s about like the fall season.

Tech finished 11th in the season-opening Carpet Capital Classic near Dalton after an disastrous first round, and then tied Cal for the title in the PING-Golfweek Preview at Alpharetta’s Capital City Club Crabapple course (site of next spring’s NCAA Championship). Then, they finished second at the Brickyard Collegiate outside of Macon.

Heppler’s a stickler in his search for stiff fields of competition. This fall, he hasn’t had to take his team far to find them. Today begins another short trip into hot water where No. 3 Washington, No. 4 USC, No. 8 UCLA will be in the boiling pot.

Last fall, this tournament had the second-highest ranked field among all collegiate events, and this year’s field includes 10 of the top 25 squads.

“If you’re going to get ready to play in a regional or NCAA championship, you’ve got to play against good teams on tough golf courses,” he said. “The idea behind this event was to create something that if you win it, it means an awful lot . . . the bar we have to reach doesn’t change, and we try to find that bar as many times a year as we can.”

Sophomores Ollie Schniederjans and Albertson, juniors Seth Reeves and Richard Werenski and freshman Michael Hines will chase scores for the Jackets today through Sunday. Teammates Drew Czuchry, Minghao Wang, Bo Andrews and Shun Yat Hak will compete as individuals.

The Jackets will throw their clubs in the closet soon, and before picking them up against after semester break – in the dead of winter – they’d like to make some noise.

“There are a lot of very strong teams here,” Albertson said. “We’ve had one extreme to the other. When we’ve actually made an effort as a group, we’ve played well and beaten some of the best teams in the country. We have a lot of talent, and when everybody is moving in the same direction we can play really well.

“Golf is a game where nothing is set in stone,” Albertson said. “Going away on a plane, that’s cool, too. Sometimes, waking up where you’re comfortable makes you feel better. I’m ready to do whatever they want me to do.”

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