March 12, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Thursday morning found Anders Albertson at it again, up early and chasing excellence. On this occasion, the Georgia Tech senior had company in his golfing teammates as they waited for day to break and fog to lift so they could work.
Truth is, Albertson stays busy home and away, solo and surrounded.
After Thursday’s practice round at Tallahassee’s Southwood Golf Club in advance of the Seminole Intercollegiate Friday-Sunday, he’s sure to find time for more fine tuning and school work.
You can bank on both because that’s the way Albertson rolls. A young man doesn’t find himself one of five finalists for the Byron Nelson Award by laying up.
The award, which goes to a graduating senior and will be give March 25 after a selection committee tasked by Cleveland Golf/Srixon in cooperation with the Four Seasons Resort and Club Las Colinas and the Salesmanship Club of Dallas sifts through nominees’ college academic and golf careers and general conduct.
Albertson’s been a medalist in all areas.
He has a 3.5 “and change” grade point average while majoring in business, has made the ACC All-Academic team three years running, was an All-America scholar last season, and was tabbed Tech’s top student-athlete in 2013-’14 to land the Bobby Dodd scholarship.
On the course, he captured the ’13 ACC title, has been All-ACC three times, was All-America honorable mention as a freshman and third team as a sophomore, and his career scoring average of 71.55 trails only those of Bryce Molder (70.69) and teammate Ollie Schniederjans (70.77) in school history.
Albertson considers himself a dual major, and he goes all out at golf and school.
“There’s one career for me, and that’s to be a professional golfer. That’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was young,” he said. “A big chunk of my life has been school, though, and to not give my full effort would be a waste of my time.”
If you chose to look at Albertson through the same jaded lens through which some view college athletics, extra luster may be added.
There are student-athletes, after all, who attend college as a stopover before going pro, perhaps to play football at with the utter goal of going to the NFL. They might get by in the classroom, but their greater focus is on athletics.
In a way, Albertson is like these student-athletes in that he knows – absolutely – that he wants to become a professional athlete. Yet he doesn’t pike anything in the classroom, ever, even though he doesn’t have a plan, per se, to use that degree. He knows, though, that it will be of tremendous value.
Plus, the son of Scott and Denita Albertson has a value system that is unmistakable, and he plays for a coach, Bruce Heppler, who fosters effort and excellence at everything. Tech golf has had a perfect APR score of 1000 every year since that academic monitoring system began in 2007-’08.
“I think it has to do with how I was raised, and the values that coach Heppler has,” Anders said. “Coming to Georgia Tech, you’re not coming just to be good at golf, but life and everything, at handling yourself. We pride ourselves in being able to handle everything.
“We’ve had a bunch of guys who have succeeded in class and on the course. Roberto Castro was one of the most successful engineering majors, and All-America three or four years. Troy Matteson was another. We have a program with coach Heppler where that’s what we do.”
Matteson won the Byron Nelson Award in 2003, and Castro in 2007. Tech’s third winner, James White in 2012, was an in-person role model for Albertson.
After graduating early from Etowah High and enrolling – along with Schniederjans – in January 2011, Anders spent a semester in acclimation and then began competing in the fall.
He has qualified to compete in every Tech tournament since, although Schniederjans will miss the Seminole Intercollegiate while playing in the PGA’s nearby Valspar Championship Thursday-Sunday.
White was a senior in 2011-12, and set a curve. Early enrollment helped as well.
“James is one of the first guys who came to mind,” he said. “[Enrolling early] was the best decision that I’ve ever made, and why I got off to a really good start. I didn’t really have an adjustment period when my [golf] scores counted.
“I got to sit back and watch everything first semester, play the courses that we would qualify on, and it wasn’t a shock to me that August. I was able to handle myself.”
Albertson got a little loose in his first turn as Tech’s math requirements quickly opened his eyes a bit wider.
“I was really just a golfer in high school, and able to get really good grades. Now, we’re . . . trying to compete with kids in the classroom with highest SATs in country,” he recalled. “My first test, in honors analysis, was like a 44 or something, sub 50 percent. That hit me in a panic.
“I learned that to play my best golf I had to really be on top of school. The last thing you want is to be on the road, like we are right now, and know you’ve got to rush back for school work.”
That first semester launched Albertson on a path to greater organization.
His academic advisor and tutors helped as he engineered his methodology.
“I bought my first planner and went through all the syllabi, went through test dates, and kept that on my desk. I went by the golf schedule and planned my day around that,” he said. “[Eventually], I was able to get same quality of work done in less time.”
It still takes a lot of time, although this semester is Albertson’s lightest – thanks in part to early enrollment – as he has two classes and a paper to finish before graduating in May.
“I probably over 30 hours a week [on academics],” he said. “A round of golf takes about 4.5 hours . . . it’s been a challenge to balance; it’s like having two jobs.”
Albertson has toed the line nicely.
He averaged 71.39 strokes per round as a freshman, when he put together a record of 727-158 with five top-10 finishes, including fourth place in the ACCs.
As a sophomore, he averaged 71.05 with a record of 827-212 and five more top-10 finishes, including the ACC title.
Last school year, he averaged 72.03 with a mark of 662-387 and six top-10 outings.
Albertson was erratic last fall before finishing fourth in the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Hawai’i upon shooting 68-67-65-200. That came after his least productive college outing, when he finished tied for 76th out of 79 in the United States Collegiate Championship.
He started the spring season two weeks ago with an 11th place finish in the Puerto Rico Classic.
So there’s evidence to support the suggestion that Albertson can run near the front, or bounce back. He’s done it on the course and in the classroom.
He’ll never forget the fall of his junior year, when Tech’s entire starting lineup – Albertson, Schniederjans, Bo Andrews, Seth Reeves and Richy Werenski – landed in the same computer science class (1301).
They all needed a computer science class. Maybe they didn’t need that one.
“That was pretty funny. You have to take one CS course, and there’s a business one and an engineering one. A former teammate, Minghao Wang, recommended this one, and we couldn’t get out,” Albertson said. “We were in there with kids who had been coding since they were 12. It was unexpected.
“We learned how to code, and then we had the code move a robot. That’s the most time I’ve ever put into a single class; lots of long nights, and we’d always try to help other. That will teach you some patience.”
Tech has taught Albertson plenty, and he’s returning the investment.
“I’m lucky enough to go to a school to graduate with a degree that carries a lot of weight. To have that degree in my back pocket is going to be big,” he said. “I’m really excited to start that path to professional golf, but I’m trying to give as much of my attention as I can to the college season right now.”
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