Sept. 25, 2010
ATLANTA – Having finished third in the Carpet Capital Collegiate in its first event two weeks ago, 10th-ranked Georgia Tech gets a peek at the venue for the 2011 NCAA Championship this weekend at the Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational, which is being held at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
The 54-hole event begins Sunday, and the 15-team field features 14 teams in the 2010-11 Golfweek top 30 preseason rankings, including seven of the top 10 and four of the top five.
All 15 teams finished last season with a Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking of 22 or better, including reigning NCAA champion Augusta State, 2009 NCAA champion Texas A&M, Oregon, Texas, UCLA, USC, Texas Tech, TCU, Virginia, Arizona State, Clemson, UNLV, Georgia Tech and Georgia. Oklahoma State, which finished the 2009-10 season No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings but lost to Augusta State in the 2010 NCAA finals, is the host school for the event.
The tournament will be played Sunday through Tuesday and will feature 18 holes each day. Live scoring can be followed at Golfstat.com.
“It’s become more important than it used to be because there’s only one practice round at the national championship,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “We’re thrilled to be back in this tournament and measure ourselves against some really good teams at the site of the championship. It’s a great opportunity.”
Georgia Tech’s four returning players that played in last year’s NCAA Championship – seniors John-Tyler Griffin, Paul Haley and Kyle Scott and junior James White – will compete at the Preview along with freshman Richard Werenski, who earned the fifth spot by winning a 54-hole team playoff.
That quintet led the Yellow Jackets to a third-place finish at the season-opening Carpet Capital collegiate two weeks ago. Haley, from Dallas, Texas, tied for seventh place at 3-under 213, and Griffin, from Wilson, N.C., tied for ninth at 2-under 214, while Scott and White tied for 19th at 3-over 219. Werenski, from South Hadley, Mass., tied for 23rd in his collegiate debut with a 4-over 220 score.
“We actually picked four guys this time, the ones who performed so well in Chattanooga last spring, and we put Richy in competition with the rest for the last spot, and he won that,” said Heppler. “The [Carpet Capital] was a positive experience. We were in there, a shot back during the last round, and were playing significant golf against some good teams, fighting to win the tournament in the first event of the year.”
The Yellow Jackets have participated in 14 of the previous 21 Ping/Golfweek Preview events, which bring together 15 of the nation’s top national championship contenders at the site of the following spring’s NCAA Championship. Tech has never won the tournament, but has finished as the runner-up five times and produced two individual champions — Stewart Cink (1994) and Bryce Molder (2000).
The last time the Ping/Golfweek Preview took place at Karsten Creek was during the fall of 2002, with Augusta State winning the team championship. Clemson won the national championship the following spring.
Last fall, for only the second time in the tournament’s history, the Ping/Golfweek event was not played at the following spring’s NCAA Championship venue. The Honors Course, located just outside of Chattanooga, Tenn., opted not to host the Preview.
The Ping/Golfweek Invitational was instead contested at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash. Oklahoma State won the event, finishing as the only team among the 15 competing to post a 54-hole total under par. The Cowboys shot 2-under 862, 18 strokes better than second-place team Washington, who hosted the event.