Feb. 19, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
On paper they’re back to where they were, and Georgia Tech’s golf team put together a fantastic autumn run so there’s that. Yet . . .
Who can say that Richard Werenski’s return will guarantee more in the Caribbean than the 4th-ranked Yellow Jackets gained in the Hawaiian islands?
Actually, it’ll be a sure thing when the Jackets tee it up Sunday through Tuesday in the Puerto Rico Classic that they’ll be one of the oldest squads.
With Werenski, a senior, replacing freshman Vincent Whaley since Tech last competed in the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawai’I, the Jackets will be three seniors – including fifth-year student-athletes Bo Andrews and Seth Reeves – and juniors Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans – who both enrolled early as freshmen. That lineup went unchanged last fall, when the Jackets won two tournaments and finished second twice.
Beyond that, though, what?
To hear Albertson tell, age had nothing to do with the Jackets finishing tied for seventh out of 20 teams in the Amer Ari. Whaley, in fact, shot the team’s best score with a 65 in the second round.
Yet they struggled to overcome a first-round score of 286 that looked nothing like a score you’d expect from one of the nation’s top teams.
Tech fell out of whack – kind of like the Jackets’ practice schedule after semester break. Perhaps extra anxiety followed them out of the holidays and to Hawai’i.
“One, we got outside, which was good,” Heppler said of the trip. “I think we’ve missed more days of practice this year than the entire time I’ve been here . . . You get anxious and you want to press.
“It’s like being pent up in a cage, and you want to get out and start making birdies, play like we did in the fall. We’ve just got to slow down [in Puerto Rico].”
Maybe we ought to slow down in making assumptions.
Whaley made his scoring debut in Hawai’i in part because Werenski didn’t go through qualifying for the event because had an unusual toe injury that left him concerned that he might not be able to walk out the six rounds.
Now, the freshman is dealing with an injury; Whaley has a bum wrist.
So Werenski is back in the mix after qualifying to play in Rio Grande, P.R.
Albertson, for one, is not so sure that the Jackets’ performance is determined as much by who plays as it is what kind of attitude everyone carries into the event. He finished at one-over-par 217 to bring up the rear for Tech in Hawai’i, tied individually for 74th out of 120 golfers.
“I would never make an excuse. You could come up with a scenario where if you don’t practice or play for a while you could make an argument that you could be rusty; that wasn’t my situation,” Albertson said.
“I was not in a good place mentally. I was not thinking the right things. It wasn’t physical . . . We just want whoever is playing the best and will help us score well. If you have all five guys who played in the fall, that’s probably one of the most experienced teams in the nation. We were just as happy to have Vince with us.”
All was not lost in Hawai’i, certainly.
The Jackets played with former Tech star Matt Kuchar, the PGA star who was in the Islands to kick off his pro season.
Beyond that, and getting out and playing after being cooped up in Atlanta, Tech played Bermuda, which is what they’ll play in Puerto Rico. Heppler wants to see the Jackets act like they belong without “pushing” to prove it.
“For me the key is to act like everything is OK. We don’t have to change anything we do. We don’t have to be different,” he said. “Just have a reasonable practice round, create a relaxed atmosphere and go play.”
Albertson is all for that.
He has re-engineered himself. Hopefully, all Jackets have done the same.
“There is something to be said for playing several tournaments in a row. There probably is a different groove, but I’m not making an excuse,” he said. “I’m totally ready to go. I’ve had a lot of time since Hawaii to get myself in order.
“I’m ready to go out and have fun. The only reason I play golf is to have fun. When I’m having, I’ll play pretty well and probably help the team.”
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