April 24, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
It seems odd when Georgia Tech golf coach Bruce Heppler suggests that one or two of his golfers have been out of sync given that his team has won events three consecutive weeks. Surely, as the Yellow Jackets today try to recapture the ACC title, that counts as having, “the wind at your back,” as the coach might say.
Yet Heppler has a point.
Upon examination the reality that senior Richard Werenski and junior Anders Albertson have not played up to their standards and the Jackets are nonetheless still on such an impressive roll is highly suggestive.
This team, ranked No. 3 nationally by Golfstat, is loaded heading into the ACCs at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C.
Albertson and Werenski may not have had seasons to match expectations, but they both played quite well last week as the Jackets beat Auburn and Georgia to win the Capital City Club Match Play Championship.
And oh yeah, Albertson won this thing last year as a sophomore upon shooting a tournament-record, 15-under par 201. As a freshman, he tied for fourth.
Werenski did not play in the ACCs last season, yet tied for 21st as a freshman and was the leader after two rounds two years ago when he finished tied for seventh.
Add them to a roster that includes junior Ollie Schniederjans, who has won four events this school year with a record of 696-65 and is ranked No. 3 by Golfstat, senior Seth Reeves (No. 23, two tournament wins, record of 622-119) and senior Bo Andrews (two top 10 finishes this season), and, well, Tech is favored.
In nine stroke-play events dating back to the fall season, the Jackets have won four times and finished second three. They also won the CCCMPC.
So, Heppler likes his team’s chances to take the title from Duke, which took advantage of the Jackets’ third-round slump in the rain last spring.
“It’s been a good place for us for a long time. Four of our five have played there before [this will be Reeves’ debut],” the coach said. “They’re all capable, I think, of winning the tournament.”
It will be no surprise if the Jackets win at the Old North State Club because they might as well own the place.
Tech won six of the previous eight ACC titles up there, including four straight from 2009-’12. Tech has won 14 ACC titles (including two ties), and while the ACCs were held at Old North the past 12 years, the Jackets won or tied seven times.
The place is a lot like the courses where the Jackets practice most, the Golf Club of Georgia and East Lake.
Up to last weekend, when the Jackets beat Auburn and Georgia to win the first CCCMPC, Werenski and Albertson were moving targets; they were up and down like, frankly, never before – at least in their Tech careers.
Albertson had three top five finishes in the fall, but this spring has finished in ties for 74th, sixth, 74th, 53rd and 20th.
Werenski tied for fifth and finished second in his first two events last fall, but has since finished in ties for 32nd, 39th, 22nd, 59th, 30th and 20th. He missed two events, one because of injury.
Then, last weekend, Albertson beat his opponents from Auburn and Georgia 3-and-2 and 5-and-4, and Werenski won 5-and-3 and 4-and-3.
Werenski, in particular, is slotted to be a wildcard for the Jackets.
“He has not been in his wheelhouse yet [in stroke play this spring],” Heppler said, “but he’s never played it like he’s playing now.”
If Heppler sweats, he hides it well. You might think that being such a heavy favorite would add pressure. The coach is not buying that. He believes the Jackets, the most successful athletic program at Georgia Tech, are constituted to win their 15th ACC title.
“They’ve been easy to coach; they’re motivated, an older group for sure,” Heppler said. “You don’t have to say anything to these guys. They want to do well. They realize what happened last year. They want to win.”
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