March 7, 2013
THE FLATS – Testing themselves against perhaps the strongest regular-season field in collegiate golf on one of the toughest golf courses, Georgia Tech’s 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets head back West this weekend to compete in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas.
The 15-team field for this year’s event features 12 of the nation’s top 13 teams in the Golfstat collegiate rankings, including top-ranked California, No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 Texas, No. 5 New Mexico, No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 Southern California, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Duke, No. 11 Georgia, No. 12 Stanford and No. 13 Oklahoma State. Only No. 3 Washington is missing from the group.
Also in the field are No. 27 Texas A&M, No. 32 Oklahoma and No. 35 UNLV, the host. They will play in a Southern Highlands Golf Club course that stretches beyond 7,500 yards and approximates a U.S. Open type of test, according to Tech head coach Bruce Heppler, who except in 2012 has made this an annual stop for the Yellow Jackets.
“It’s really an opportunity to look beyond the score,” said Heppler. “It’s an opportunity find out if you can hang in there. It’s a long round and the course is set up very difficult. If you don’t play well, you get run over, but we’ve never shied away from that.”
None of the current Tech players has played in this event or on the Southern Highlands Golf Club. The travel squad includes junior Seth Reeves, sophomores Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson, and freshmen Michael Hines and Shun Yat Hak.
“We’re still way up in the air as to who our best five players are,” said Heppler. “We’re going to play both of our freshmen in the lineup this year for the first time, so this will be a great test for everyone. It could be very entertaining to see how these five guys deal with something that will be very difficult.”
Schniederjans, the Powder Springs, Ga., native who is the Yellow Jackets’ highest-ranked player nationally (25th), tied for second with a 10-under-par 206, two shots out of the lead, in Tech’s last outing in Puerto Rico two weeks ago. He is Tech’s stroke average leader at 71.3 with three top-10 finishes this year, while Albertson (Woodstock, Ga.) is second at 71.9 with four top-20 finishes.
Hines, from Acworth, Ga., has the team’s third best stroke average at 72.7 in 12 rounds this year, while Reeves (Duluth, Ga.) is next at 73.5 with one top-10 in five events. Hak (Lake Mary, Fla.) has a 73.7 average in nine rounds and will be playing in his fourth event this year.
Tech has finished fourth (Amer Ari Invitational) and fifth (Puerto Rico Classic) in its two spring events after winning twice and finishing second in four fall tournaments.