March 16, 2005
ATLANTA – Continuing his efforts to have Georgia Tech’s golf team play a national schedule, head coach Bruce Heppler has his No. 2-ranked Yellow Jackets back out West this weekend for the Oregon Duck Invitational in Eugene, Ore., Monday and Tuesday.
Tech, which had an extra day of competition available since the Oregon event is a two-day event, also will play a pair of “friendly” matches Saturday against Brigham Young and either Washington or Oregon State at the renowned Bandon Dunes Resort in Bandon, Ore.
Heppler, whose team has never played in the Pacific Northwest, wants to give the Yellow Jackets a taste of the area since the NCAA Championship will be played at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon next year. The Oregon Duck Invitational will be played at the Eugene Country Club, a traditional older course that is 6,900 yards and plays to a par of 72. The Saturday matches will be played at Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes, both ranked in the top five in Golfweek magazine’s list of the Top 100 American Modern Golf Courses.
“We’re getting to play the No. 2 and the No. 5 courses on the list of the best modern golf courses, and the NCAA Tournament will be out there next year,” said Heppler, whose team is coming off a sixth-place finish at last week’s Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas, Nev. “With three of these guys having a chance to come back and play next year, I felt like this was a good thing to do. The weather and grasses play a big part in golf. You see guys have different levels of success in different parts of the country.
“So we’ve always tried to go do some different things, and hopefully it helps in recruiting to play all over the country rather than just the Southeast all the time. We like to try and play a national schedule so that kids who come from that part of the country can have their families watch them play.”
The format of Saturday’s matches is to pit each of Tech’s players against each of BYU’s, one through five, and the team whose players win the most matches is the victor. Washington and Oregon State will play each other at the same time Saturday morning on the Pacific Dunes course. The teams will swap opponents for afternoon matches at Bandon Dunes.
The Oregon Duck Invitational, which starts Monday with 36 holes and concludes with an 18-hole round Tuesday, is a traditional collegiate stroke play event with a field comprised mostly of West Coast teams. Besides Tech, Washington is the highest-ranked team in the tournament, No. 26 this week in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
The Yellow Jackets will take the same lineup they have used in their three spring events thus far – seniors Nicholas Thompson and Chan Song, junior Mike Barbosa and sophomores Roberto Castro and Kevin Larsen.
Castro is Tech’s highest ranked player (No. 5) in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index, leads Tech in stroke average (70.76) and was Tech’s highest finisher last week in Las Vegas (tie for 15th). Thompson, the nation’s No. 9-ranked player, has averaged 70.83 this year, while Song, ranked No. 19, is next at 71.50. They tied for 25th in Las Vegas, while Barbosa (72.42 average) and Larsen (73.25) tied for 35th.
Tech had finished in the top three of every event this year, fall and spring, and was coming off a four-shot victory at the Puerto Rico Invitational before finishing sixth in Las Vegas, 22 shots off the pace of host UNLV at the Southern Highlands Golf Club.
“We didn’t drive the ball as well as we needed to,” said Heppler. “They grew rough like you’ve never seen in the desert before. We hit a lot of good golf shots, but we didn’t hit enough fairways to win the tournament. The guys said it was the (same level of) difficulty of the U.S. Amateur. The greens were fast and firm, and you needed to do everything well.
“For them to realize in March that they’re not where they need to be to play well at Caves Valley (site of the NCAA Championship) is a good thing. We don’t often get tests like that in the regular season. You don’t find that kind of rough on a member golf course. From that standpoint, we learned a good lesson that we’re not good enough right now.”