Aloha 'Oe

Jan. 29, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– If you had a choice, you’d probably opt to be with the Georgia Tech golf team today and for several more days as well.

The Yellow Jackets are in Hawai’i, where head coach Bruce Heppler has for several years chosen to start the spring season. The Amer Ari Invitational begins Wednesday in Waikoloa, and before that the Jackets will not only practice, but enjoy themselves.

They’ll also spend quite a bit of time on their schoolwork. If you insist on calling this a vacation, make sure you call it a working vacation.

Heppler scheduled players lightly last week so they could spend whatever time they needed with professors to set up their academic work.

The golf team is good at this. These Jackets routinely turn in perfect or near-perfect APR scores, and their grade-point averages reflect that.

Heppler suggested the other day that he may have to keep a closer eye on this group while in the islands; two freshmen (Ollie Schniederjens and Anders Albertson) and three sophomores (Seth Reeves, Bo Andrews and Richy Werenski) are making the trip with senior James White.

Actually, given that Schniederjens and Albertson entered school last winter, and Andrews and Reeves have a redshirt year to their credit, and Werenski entered school in Jan. 2010, they’re not exactly wet behind the ears.

“That’s made a huge difference for the student-athletes who entered school early,” Heppler said.

Still, “I can’t really talk from experience, but we’re going to be away from school for a week so it’s definitely a dedication for our team,” Schniederjens said.

Heppler knows this trip catches attention; heck, his fellow Tech coaches even chime in. His stock response goes something like this: “If you want to play in Hawai’i, raise the money [like Heppler and his program do], every sport sets their own schedule [to some degree], and the University of Hawai’i has a team in every sport.”

Well, not every sport, but you get Heppler’s drift.

The Jackets will be nowhere near snow drifts for a while.

“It’s a real motivator, and there’s not a whole lot better places to be at the end of January,” the coach said. “The guys finish in the fall . . . do their finals, and go home and work toward this.

“It’s a reward [to be earned through qualifying]. The weather is good. Sometimes this time of year it’s not so great [back home]. There’s not a lot of schools in the East that go out there, and we use it in recruiting, too.”

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