Oct. 26, 2010
Alpharetta, Ga. – After four years of playing the role of cordial host at The United States Collegiate Championship and earning kudos for helping to conduct “the Masters of college golf,” Georgia Tech finally decided to earn a spot on the USCC trophy.
And the Yellow Jackets did it this week with stunning emphasis at their home club, The Golf Club of Georgia.
They led wire-to-wire, putting away the United States Collegiate Championship title Tuesday by a tournament- and school-record 27 shots for a 54-hole total of 28-under-par 836, pushing coach Bruce Heppler’s team to one of Georgia Tech’s most impressive victories ever.
After spending a few frustrating years watching Clemson (twice), Georgia and Southern California take USCC titles, finally it was Heppler’s and Georgia Tech’s moment. Their best finish when the tournament was played in the spring, sometimes with snow flurries flying, was a third in 2009.
“I’ve walked by that trophy for 1,300 days,” Heppler said, referring back to the start of the USCC in 2006. “We’re going to turn that trophy so we’re the only (team name) you can see.”
Winning in the first year of the USCC’s shift to the fall, Heppler decided, smiling broadly, “No going back to the spring, that’s correct.”
Adding to the impact was Georgia Tech junior James White also securing the USCC individual title in wire-to-wire fashion. White’s domination started with a first-round 62, which set a new competitive course record for the Lakeside Course, and culminated Tuesday with a third-round 72 for a 54-hole score of 12-under 204, breaking by four strokes the tournament record set by Oklahoma State’s Trent Leon in 2008. White won by five shots over Southern Cal’s T.J. Vogel., who came back with a 66.
“I couldn’t have scripted a better finish to the fall,” said White, a native of Acworth, Ga., who celebrated his first college win and first victory of any kind since his state 5-A Championship in 2008. “I’m absolutely elated. It’s just extremely special. It’s our home tournament. We love this place and everybody around it.”
No. 1 ranked UCLA finished second in the team standings at 1-under 863, 27 shots back, followed by Texas A&M at 2-over 866 and Southern Cal at 867. Only two teams finished under par on Tuesday, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, both at 8-under. Heppler proudly called it “a five-man win,” and rightly so, as Richard Werenski stepped up as Tech’s low man with a 67, with J.T. Griffin (70) and Kyle Scott (71) also counting Tuesday. Werenski and Scott tied for fourth individually at 4-under 212.
All five of Tech’s golfers finished among the top 13 individuals and under par for 54 holes. Griffin and Paul Haley (75 Tuesday) were among a group of seven players tied for seventh place at 1-under 215.
It was Georgia Tech’s first team win since capturing the ACC Championship this last spring. The previous highest margin of victory for a USCC team champion was eight shots by Georgia in 2007.
In its initial fall offering, the USCC enjoyed unseasonably warm weather and optimum scoring conditions this year, with only a slight rain delay on Monday morning. With near record October temperatures to match, the Yellow Jackets obliterated the previous 54-hole team record of even-par 864, set by Clemson in 2006 and Southern Cal in 2008. They started the final day with an 11-shot lead, but Heppler went to bed Monday night without a supreme amount of confidence, saying, “It’s like (Greg) Norman at the Masters,” he said, “all you can do is mess up.”
When the Yellow Jackets got through the 14th hole with a 25-shot lead, Heppler said, “I think we can handle it from here.”
Outside of a conference championship or an NCAA title, winning a United States Collegiate title was next on Heppler’s list. He thanked the throng of Golf Club of Georgia members and sponsors who were assembled above during the award ceremony at the 18th green in Corporate Skyboxes – a first for college golf.
“This club is the lifeblood of our program,” he said. “They took us in as members (in 1996) and we love being here. . . This is a very special place for us.”