Feb. 18, 2018
THE FLATS – Chris Petefish and Noah Norton each fired a 3-under-par 68 Sunday and lifted No. 7 Georgia Tech into a tie for second place after the opening round of the 26th Puerto Rico Classic, which is being played at the Ocean Course at the Rio Mar Resort and Spa.
TECH LINEUP — The Yellow Jackets’ 8-under-par 276 Sunday, which included 25 birdies or better, was their best opening round this year by eight strokes (4-under-par 284 at the Golf Club of Georgia in the final fall event) and their best opening score since a 276 in the Seminole Intercollegiate last spring.
Petefish posted his best round as a counter in Georgia Tech’s lineup since the fall of 2016 when he shot 67 in the second round of the Maui Jim Intercollegiate. Sunday, the senior from Danville, Calif., had a nearly clean round with four birdies and one bogey, while Norton (freshman Chico, Calif.) overcame two bogeys and a triple bogey at the par-3 fourth hole with two eagles and four birdies to card their 68s.
Sophomore Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) added a 2-under-par 69, and sophomore Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) opened defense of his 2017 title by carding an even-par 71 for Tech. Sophomore Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.) did not count for the Jackets after posting a 3-over-par 74.
Senior Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.), competing in the companion individual event this week at the Rio Mar River Course, shot a 1-over-par 73 and is tied for sixth.
TEAM LEADERBOARD — Four golfers shot rounds under 70 for No. 8 Oklahoma, who posted a 10-under-par 274 and grabbed the opening-round lead by two strokes over the Yellow Jackets, five-time champions in this event, and NC State, both of whom shot 8-under-par 276. Host team Purdue shot 7-under-par 277 on the par-71, 6,716-yard Ocean Course. They were the only teams to break par Sunday.
No. 16 Clemson and East Carolina are tied for fifth place at even-par 284, followed by top-ranked Alabama, a six-time champion in Puerto Rico, at 2-over-par 286. Eight of the 15 teams in the field are ranked in the top 50 nationally.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD — NC State’s Stephen Franken was uniquely sharp Sunday, firing a 9-under-par 62 with seven birdies and an eagle to take a five-stroke lead over Alabama’s Lee Hodges (67, -4). Tech’s Petefish and Norton are in a group of six players tied for third at 68 (-4), including a pair of Sooners in Grant Hirschman and Blaine Hale. Twelve golfers are tied for ninth at 69 (-2), and four more at 70 (-1).
COACH Bruce Heppler SAID — “It was a good opening round with a lot of subpar holes, something we’ve been needing. But we also had a lot of unforced errors (four double- or triple-bogeys), which we need to clean up tomorrow and Tuesday. Chris played a very solid round today, good to see.”
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 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).
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.