THE FLATS – Returning to action for the first time since late October, Georgia Tech’s golf team has traveled to the Big Island of Hawai’i to take part in its traditional spring season opener, the Amer Ari Intercollegiate beginning Wedneday at Hapuna Golf Course in Waimea, Hawai’i.
After closing the fall season ranked No. 10 in the Golfstat rankings and No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index, head coach Bruce Heppler has six Yellow Jackets competing against a 20-team field that includes nine teams ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams in the current Golfstat rankings, including No. 1 Auburn. The event tees off a busy February in which the Jackets also play in the Watersound Invitational in Florida and the Southern Highlands collegiate in Las Vegas before the month is out.
TEAM UPDATE – Head coach Bruce Heppler’s squad finished the fall season No. 10 in Golfstat and No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index despite not winning a fall event for the first time since 2016. The Yellow Jackets, however, posted a pair of runner-up finishes at the Inverness Intercollegiate and its home Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational, tied for fourth at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate and 12th at the Ben Hogan Collegiate Invitational.
In spite of having all five starters back from a team that finished 12th in last year’s NCAA Championship and runner-up in the ACC Championship, Heppler started each of his 11 players at least once, and only All-American Christo Lamprecht and fifth-year senior Connor Howe were a part of the starting five for each of the four tournaments.
Lamprecht, a 6-8 junior from South Africa who reached match play at the U.S. Amateur in August, earned his first collegiate victory at the Inverness Intercollegiate and tied for 10th at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate for his top performances of the fall. Howe, from Ogden, Utah tied for third at the Maui Jim and 14th at Inverness for his two best performances, and added a tie for 20th at the Golf Club of Georgia.
They lead a Tech starting five in Hawai’i that also includes freshman Hiroshi Tai of Singapore, a two-time winner in the fall (Maui Jim individual event, golf Club of Georgia Collegiate), senior Ross Steelman (Columbia, Mo.), who tied for fifth at the Golf Club of Georgia and 21st at the Maui Jim in his only two events, and senior Bartley Forrester (Gainesville, Ga.), whose best finish in three fall events was a tie for sixth at the Ben Hogan Collegiate. Sophomore Benjamin Reuter (Naarden, The Netherlands) is competing as an individual.
All of Tech’s starting five begin the spring ranked among Golfstat’s top 100 individuals and compiled stroke averages of 71.00 or lower in the fall. Steelman enters the spring as Tech’s top-ranked player in Golfstat at No. 31, while Lamprecht is No. 48, Tai is No. 61, Forrester is No. 65 and Howe is No. 82.
Ross Steelman is Tech’s top-ranked player, No. 31 by Golfstat. (photo by Danny Karnik)
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech has played in the Amer Ari Intercollegiate every year since 1999. The 32nd annual event, which runs Wednesday through Friday, is a traditional collegiate 54-hole, 5-count-4 stroke-play tournament. The event will be contested for the second straight year at Hapuna Golf Course in Waimea (6,875 yards, par 72).
The Yellow Jackets have won this event five times, all between 2000 and 2007, and six Yellow Jackets have won or shared the individual title, including Matt Kuchar (shared title in 2000 and 2001), Carlton Forrester (shared title in 2000), Bryce Molder (shared title in 2001), Troy Matteson (2003) and Cameron Tringale (2007). Tech finished in seventh place among 19 teams last year.
The 20-team field is loaded with 12 top-25 teams, including (with Golfstat ranking) top-ranked Auburn, No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 6 Stanford, No. 10 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Pepperdine, No. 16 Oklahoma State and No. 20 Texas, as well as three other teams (Oregon, TCU and Washington) ranked in the top 50.
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ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 28th year under head coach Bruce Heppler, winning 70 tournaments in his tenure. The Yellow Jackets have won 18 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 29 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up four times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GTGolf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.