Feb. 17, 2018
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s golf team returns to action for its second event of the spring season this weekend, traveling to Rio Grande, Puerto Rico for the 26th Puerto Rico Classic, which begins Sunday.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech is making its 26th appearance in the Puerto Rico Classic, typically the second event on the Yellow Jackets’ spring schedule after its opening trip to Hawai’i, having participated in every renewal of this tournament. The 54-hole event runs from Sunday through Tuesday with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. each day. Normally played at the River Course at Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort, the event is being contest this year at the 6,716-yard, par 71 Ocean Course due to lingering damage from last summer’s hurricane season.
Eight of the 15 teams in the field are ranked among the nation’s top 50 in the Golfstat rankings – Alabama (1), Georgia Tech (3), Oklahoma (9), Clemson (17), Kentucky (18), Marquette (33), NC State (37), Northwestern (44), Purdue (52), Middle Tennessee (73), Virginia Tech (76), Maryland (77), East Carolina (79), Georgia (93), UNC Greensboro (116).
Georgia Tech is paired with top-ranked Alabama and Purdue, the host team, for Sunday’s opening round.
The Yellow Jackets finished third in last year’s Puerto Rico Classic, with then-freshman Luke Schniederjans taking home medalist honors for his second collegiate victory of the year. Tech has won the event five times and finished second six times. Seven Jackets have earned medalist honors, including Mikko Rantanen (1994), Stewart Cink (1995), Matt Kuchar (1998), Troy Matteson (2002), Roberto Castro (2007) and James White (2011) prior to Schniederjans’ triumph last spring.
TEAM UPDATE – Georgia Tech is ranked No. 3 in the latest Golfstat rankings and No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index after opening the spring season with a fifth-place finish at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawai’i. The Yellow Jackets won the Carpet Capital Collegiate and the Franklin American Mortgage Collegiate in the fall, along with a runner-up finish at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate and a fourth-place showing against an ultra-strong field at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate.
The Yellow Jackets own a 53-8-4 overall win-loss record this year, including a 26-8-4 mark against top-50 teams.
TECH LINEUP – Senior Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.) joins sophomores Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) and freshman Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.) on the Yellow Jackets’ travel roster, while senior Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.) will compete in the companion individual tournament played at the adjacent golf course at the Rio Grande Reosrt.
Schniederjans (No. 38), Joiner (No. 41), Strafaci (No. 91) and Ogletree (No. 94) all rank among Golfstat’s top 100 individuals, while Norton is No. 128. The quintet logged seven top-10 finishes between them in the fall, with each player posting at least one. All five players boast stroke averages under 72.
COACH Bruce Heppler SAYS – “The folks at Purdue who run the event looked at some alternate sites, but they flew down and saw that the golf course survived, but the bunkers did not, so that’ll make for some interesting rulings during the event. The hotel is closed, the only people staying there are the teams. There is a women’s event going on right now. They have hosted these teams and players down there for years, and even if the golf course has some problems, we need to support the people of Puerto Rico and the people who work at the golf course and the hotels.
[On the Yellow Jackets] “We’re trying to find some consistency. We’ve got some really good players, but they need to become great players. But if you don’t challenge individually, you’re not going to challenge as a team. Our in Hawai’i, we didn’t even have anyone in the top 20. So we’ve got to just keep sticking our nose in there. We’re still a freshman and three sophomores in their second semester.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 23rd under head coach Bruce Heppler, winning 51 tournaments in his tenure. The Yellow Jackets have won 16 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 28 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 (@GT_Golf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.