Feb. 1, 2018
Waikoloa, Hawai’i – Sophomore Tyler Strafaci fired a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 Thursday afternoon to take the opening-round lead, and third-ranked Georgia Tech posted a 7-under-par 281 and is tied for third place after the first round of the Amer Ari Invitational, taking place at the Waikoloa Beach Resort’s Kings Course.
TECH LINEUP – As a group, Tech muddled through the back nine, where the Jackets began their rounds in the shotgun start, but made up a lot of ground on the front, where they shot 8-under-par with 10 birdies and a pair of eagles and made a significant leap up the leaderboard.
Strafaci, a sophomore from Davie, Fla., ranked No. 90 in the country, with one win under his belt as a collegian, carded four birdies and an eagle in posting the low round of his career to date, beating the previous best 68 he shot twice during the fall.
He led a Tech scoring contingent that included a 3-under-par 69 from freshman Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.), who is tied for seventh place individually. Senior Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.) and sophomores Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.) each shot 1-over-par 73 for the Yellow Jackets. Two of those 73s count toward Thursday’s team score of 281.
TEAM LEADERBOARD – Texas, ranked 16th in the nation, benefitted from three sub-70 rounds and shot 9-under-par 279 in taking the first-round lead over a bunched leaderboard. The Longhorns have a one-stroke lead over No. 2 Oklahoma State, which used a pair of 69s to post an 8-under-par total of 280. The Jackets are another stroke back at 281, tied with No. 14 Texas Tech and TCU.
No. 19 Southern California and San Jose State are tied for sixth at 282 (-6), followed by UC Davis at 283 (-5). No. 8 Auburn holds ninth place at 28y (-2), with Colorado and Oregon tied for 10th at 287 (-1).
INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – Strafaci, who won last year’s Valspar Invitational at the Floridian, has a two-shot lead on five players who shot 4-under-par 68, including Texas teammates Doug Ghim, ranked sixth in the country, and Spencer Soosman. Norton is in a group of 10 players tied for seventh place at 69. Ten more players are tied at 2-under-par 70, while eleven individuals shot 1-under-par 71.
COACH Bruce Heppler SAYS – “This was a pretty positive start today. I think our overall play was better than we scored. It was our first round since October, so that was somewhat understandable. I think they were chomping at the bit to get started. What a great round for Tyler. He played par 5s, which are the real scoring holes on the course, minus-5. It was a good start to the spring for Noah as well.”
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech is making its 20th appearance in the Amer Ari Invitational, which has been the traditional spring opener for the Yellow Jackets every year since 1999, with one exception. The 27th annual event, which runs through Saturday, is a 54-hole stroke-play tournament played at the 7,074-yard, par 72 Kings Course at the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kona Coast of Hawai’i.
The Yellow Jackets have won this event five times, all between 2000 and 2007, and six Yellow Jackets have won or shared the individual title, including Matt Kuchar (shared title in 2000 and 2001), Carlton Forrester (shared title in 2000), Bryce Molder (shared title in 2001), Troy Matteson (2003) and Cameron Tringale (2007).
The 18-team field boasts four of the nation’s top 10 teams (No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Georgia Tech, No. 8 Auburn, No. 10 Stanford), seven of the top 25 (No. 14 Texas Tech, No. 16 Texas, No. 19 Southern California) and 10 of the nation’s top 50 in the current rankings. Two of those teams, No. 11 Texas and No. 22 Oregon, faced off in the NCAA Championship match last spring. Five of the top 10 individuals in the nation are on those teams.