Aug. 22, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
So if you were a freshman with a choice . . . would you rather have spent the weekend schlepping stuff into a dorm at Georgia Tech with classes to begin Monday, or would you rather play golf all week in Wisconsin?
Easy; Anders Albertson chose the cheese. Who wouldn’t?
Good luck finding a teenager who’d turn down the chance to play in the U.S. Amateur Championship.
The Yellow Jackets will be well represented this week in the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills in Wauwatosa, Wisc., but the Tech golf team – which in recent years has achieved as much as or more academically than all Tech teams — will not be fairly represented on The Flats.
Albertson’s teammates James White and Seth Reeves will also be in the tournament, which will use stroke play Monday and Tuesday to pair 312 or so golfers down to 64 by the start of match play on Wednesday.
If you golf competitively but not to make a living at it, you dream about the U.S. Amateur.
“It’s the biggest tournament that we have in our sport, and one of the biggest in the world, something you work for all year,” said Albertson, who did not compete for Tech in the spring. “I’m very excited to play.”
Albertson went through move-in day at Tech on Friday, and then took a flight to Wisconsin Saturday morning with his caddie, Tom Goekeler. He is a close friend of Albertson’s father, a relationship born during their days as fraternity brothers years ago at Oklahoma State, where Anders said his father played football.
Papa Albertson could not make the trip for sake of schedule conflict.
Anders, who turned 18 in June, had a conflict in his schedule, too. He’s trying to meld his athletic and academic worlds this week – by remote.
The fact that he’s already been through some classes at Tech figures to help. He’s not a rookie student at Tech, after all, nor is he a rookie in the U.S. Amateur; he qualified and played in the tournament in 2009 as well.
“I e-mailed all of [his professors/teachers] asking for work that I can do to keep up or not get too far behind,” Albertson said. “I have five professors and I think I’ve had responses from two or three, and I’ll definitely be e-mailing them all week.” The fair-haired Albertson, who was one of the nation’s top-ranked junior golfers while at Etowah High north of Atlanta, has had quite a summer.
He tied for first place Aug. 1-2 in a U.S. Amateur qualifier at the Standard Club in Duluth, winning one of four spots (out of a field of 114 in the qualifier). He also finished fourth or tied for fourth in a couple significant amateur events.
Reeves, a Duluth native by the way, qualified at Capital City Club’s Crabapple course in another qualifier July 19-20. He’ll be a redshirt sophomore.
White, a senior, qualified by virtue of his top 50 amateur ranking (currently No. 28 in the world, No. 11 in the U.S.).
This tournament could help White’s candidacy to make the prestigious eight-member U.S. Walker Cup team, which will compete next month in Scotland.
The same goes for former Tech golfer Paul Haley, who won the ACC title last spring (Haley is ranked No. 24 in the world, and No. 10 in the U.S.).
Back to the U.S. Amateur . . .
Former Tech star Matt Kuchar won this thing in 1997 after Tiger Woods won the previous three. It’s a big deal. Some consider it nearly on par with pro golf’s majors.
Like so many in the field of 312, Albertson has been gearing toward this tournament for months.
“I was hitting the ball well early this summer, but I wasn’t scoring. I wasn’t making a lot of putts,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard the last couple months on my short game, and it’s really paying off.
“Jeff Patton, my [teaching] pro in Atlanta has helped a lot. Sometimes it’s not as fun as beating balls all day on the range, but you practice your chipping and putting and it can pay off.”
If you think you could beat Albertson, let me hear about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. I say no way.