THE FLATS – Making its final tuneup for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in two weeks, Georgia Tech’s 8th-ranked golf team returns to action this weekend by participating the fourth annual Clemson Invitational, which is being contested at The Cliffs at Keowee Falls in Salem, S.C.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – The Clemson Invitational is a 54-hole event, hosted by Clemson University, that begins Friday and runs through Sunday with 18 holes each day. It is played at The Cliffs at Keowee Falls, a 7,103-yard, par 72 layout in Salem, S.C. Competition begins at 1 p.m. Friday with a shotgun start.
The Yellow Jackets finished second to the host team, Clemson, in its two previous trips to the Clemson Invitational in 2016 and 2017. Vincent Whaley captured the second tournament title of his career with an 8-under-par score of 208 in his senior year of 2016, while James Clark tied for third (2-under-par 214) in 2017.
Tech is the highest-ranked team in the 15-team field, which also includes No. 10 Duke, No. 19 Clemson, Boston College and Virginia from the ACC, as well as No. 15 Georgia, Army West Point, College of Charleston, Connecticut, Elon, Furman, Louisiana Tech, UNC Wilmington, Western Carolina and Wofford.
TEAM UPDATE – The Yellow Jackets stand No. 8 in the nation in the Golfstat, and No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and No. 8 in the Bushnell Coaches Poll. Tech, favored to win the Atlantic Coast Conference once again, has won three stroke play events this year, sharing titles at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and the Puerto Rico Classic, and won the Maui Jim Intercollegiate outright. Tech finished sixth at the Southern Highlands Collegiate after holding the 36-hole lead, and 12th in the Valspar Collegiate Invitational, both against extremely strong fields, in its last two outings.
Tech is 22-21-1 against current top-25 teams this year, 40-25-2 vs. top-50 teams, and 60-25-3 vs. top-100 teams, and its schedule is rated the third-most difficult in the nation according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.
Statistically, Tech ranks No. 7 in the nation in average team score (281.62), No. 5 in average individual score (71.06), No. 3 in comparison to par (-0.61), No. 1 in first-round average (69.90) and No. 1 in par-4 scoring (4.01).
TECH LINEUP – Head coach Bruce Heppler is sending out the same starting five that competed in the Yellow Jackets’ last three events, the Puerto Rico Classic, the Southern Highlands Collegiate and the Valspar Collegiate Invitational – Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.), Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.), Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.) and freshman Connor Howe (Ogden, Utah). Fifth-year senior James Clark (Columbus, Ga.) is competing as an individual.
Four Yellow Jackets playing this week are ranked among the top 70 in the national Golfstat rankings, led by Ogletree (No. 32), who has been the Yellow Jackets’ top finisher in all four spring events. He is followed by Schniederjans (No. 38), Strafaci (No. 63) and Norton (No. 70). Those four have combined for 10 top-10 finishes (Schniederjans and Strafaci each have three, Ogletree and Norton each have two). They are separated by less than a stroke in stroke average, with Schniederjans leading the way at 70.43.
Freshman Connor Howe (Ogden, Utah), with a 72.78 stroke average in 18 rounds, is playing in his fourth straight event as a counting member of the travel team.
COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAYS – “The dates for the tournament this year gave us a break in between it and the ACC Tournament, and the field is stronger than it was the first couple of times we played. It’s an easy place to get to, and it’s a more difficult version of the Old North State (site of the ACC Championship). The place is similar to what we’ll see at ACC’s and it’s a good opportunity to gather some momentum heading into the conference championship.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 24th year under head coach Bruce Heppler, having won 53 tournaments in his tenure. The Yellow Jackets have won 17 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 (@GTGolf). For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.