THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s golf team, ranked No. 3 in the nation and coming off a fifth-place finish in its first spring event, heads to the Caribbean for its second tournament, the Puerto Rico Classic at the Rio Grande Beach and Spa Resort.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech is making its 28th 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. local time Sunday and Monday, and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The event is played at the River Course (6,902 yards, par 72) at Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort.
Six of the 15 teams in the field are ranked among the nation’s top 50 in the Golfstat rankings, led by top-ranked Oklahoma, Tech (3), Georgia (19), Clemson (24), Tennessee (28) and Mississippi (35). Also in the field are Purdue (52), Alabama (53), NC State (56), Ohio State (58), Marquette (65), East Carolina (70), Iowa (81), College of Charleston (89) and Maryland (104).
Tech tied Georgia for first place in this event a year ago, and has won the event six 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), James White (2011) and current junior Luke Schniederjans as a freshman in 2017.
U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree (above) tied for third at the Amer Ari Invitational, boosting his national ranking to No. 35 this week. Tyler Strafaci (below) is Tech’s top-ranked player at No. 10. (photos by Michele Blunck)
TEAM UPDATE – Head coach Bruce Heppler’s 25th Yellow Jacket team comes in at No. 3 this week in all three collegiate golf rankings, including Golfstat, which determines seeding for NCAA regional play in May. Tech is No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index. Pepperdine, who won the Amer Ari Invitational in which Tech played last week, is the top-ranked team in Golfstat and the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.
Tech, which won three of its four tournaments in the fall, led the Amer Ari Invitational after 36 holes and during the latter part of the final round, but stumbled at the end as Pepperdine and three other teams in the tightly bunched leaderboard passed the Jackets.
TECH LINEUP – Tech’s core group of seniors Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) is playing its final spring season together, joined by sophomore Connor Howe (Ogden, Utah), the Yellow Jackets’ No. 5 player during last spring’s post season and for two of the four events last fall. They make up the Tech lineup for the Puerto Rico Classic.
Strafaci, Tech’s top player at No. 10 in the Golfstat rankings, and Ogletree, ranked No. 35, both challenged for the individual title at the Amer Ari Invitational. Strafaci led after 36 holes but shot 75 in the final round and tied for sixth, while Ogletree tied for third, two strokes off the lead. Howe tied for 65th and Schniederjans needed a closing 69 to tie for 79th.
Bartley Forrester (Gainesville, Ga.), a redshirt freshman who played as an individual last week in Hawai’i (T-65 in a 124-player field), earned another start this week and is playing No. 5 in place of junior Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.).
"We played great for about 51 holes (in Hawai’i). Texas got off to a great start the last day. If you look at the wire-to-wire leaders on Tour, there aren’t many, and not many 54-hole leaders win events. That’s part of learning how to close out and win things. Texas made a great run, and we caught them. When we were on our 16th hole, we were still ahead. Pepperdine did some great things on their last couple of holes, and we didn’t handle the closing holes as good as we should have. When you’re playing against the best teams in the country, there’s no margin for error, and we just didn’t play well enough at the end."
Head Coach Bruce Heppler
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ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 25th year under head coach Bruce Heppler, winning 61 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.