May 22, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
The role of closer is not up for debate on the Georgia Tech golf team.
Junior James White has fired a 68 in the final round in four of his past five tournaments for the Yellow Jackets, and that helped him tie teammate Kyle Scott for second place in an NCAA regional that wrapped up Saturday at Virginia Tech.
The Jackets finished second overall, too, and were easily one of five teams that qualified for the national championships beginning May 31 at Oklahoma State’s Karsten Creek Golf Club.
“The more I play, the more I get in tune with how I feel and make adjustments as I go,” said White, who shot 73-71-68 for a four-under par 212 Thursday-Saturday. “At the end of tournament I feel good.”
In a sport full of twists ironic and coincidental, the course White and the Jackets will next compete upon will be the one where he fired his worst final round of the school year.
Tech played the Stillwater, Okla., course during the Ping/Golfweek Preview in its second match of the season. In the final round, White shot 81 and tied for 43rd among 75 golfers. It was, by a pretty large margin, his worst outing of the year.
He’s working on the belief that having played four rounds there (including a practice round last fall), he and his teammates will be all the more ready this go-round.
“[Virginia Tech] was long, the greens were small, the fairways were narrow, and the rough was penalizing,” he said. “Oklahoma State is kind of the same, although the fairways are wider. I don’t know if it plays as long, but you feel a lot closer to the trouble.
“They’re somewhat similar. [The greens] weren’t as fast as we’ll see in the national championships.”
White, Scott and J.T. Griffin each have six top-10 finishes in Tech’s 10 tournaments this season, and White has won twice. Scott has been runner-up three tournaments in a row.
Paul Haley has four top-10 finishes, and won the two tournaments prior to the regionals, where he had Tech’s high score in each of three rounds.
Having finished national runners-up four times, Tech will try to go a step better in Stillwater.
“Kyle’s playing great. J.T. is never far off his game, [Haley] wasn’t really comfortable with the speed of the greens,” White said. “Paul didn’t quite play as well as he, but he started to figure something out. He’s never far off. Richy [Werenski] is a freshman, and he’s starting to figure some things out.
“As a team we feel like [the regional] prepared us for the national championship.”