Feb. 22, 2007
ATLANTA – Continuing its annual winter tour of exotic locales, Georgia Tech’s 19th-ranked golf team competes against 11 of the nation’s top 30 teams beginning Sunday at the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
Making its 12th appearance in the event, played at the 6,945-yard, par 72 River Course at the Westin Rio Mar Country Club, the Yellow Jackets are hoping to build on a solid fourth-place finish in its first spring event two weeks ago at the UH-Hilo Invitational in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
Tech has won four times and finished second twice in its previous 11 trips to Puerto Rico, but posted a disappointing 15th-place effort last February. Among the teams in this year’s field are No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Stanford, No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Alabama. Other top-20 teams playing include Clemson, East Tennessee State, Texas and Duke. The teams will play 18 holes each Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
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“We had two guys challenge for the individual title, and that’s what we had hoped for in the fall,” head coach Bruce Heppler said of his team’s performance at Hilo. “Having those two play like that makes us competitive with the other teams. Having a freshman finish 18th in his first college tournament shows me he’s ready to play. Those are all positive signs that we can have a very good team before the year is over.”
All-Americans Roberto Castro, Cameron Tringale and Kevin Larsen anchor the Tech travel squad for this event. Castro, a senior from Alpharetta, Ga., and Tech’s highest-ranked individual (48th) in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, finished second at Hilo with an 11-under-par score of 199, his second straight top-5 finish dating back to the last fall event. He has a scoring average of 71.53 this year in five events.
Tringale, a sophomore from Laguna Niguel, Calif., and Tech’s scoring leader (71.44), tied for fifth place at Hilo (9-under 201) while posting his third top-20 finish this year. He is ranked No. 65 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index. Larsen, a senior from Santa Barbara, Calif., who posted a pair of top-20 efforts in the fall (72.20 stroke average in five events), missed the cut in team qualifying to go to Hilo, but made it this time.
“Kevin played very well in the qualifier to go to Puerto Rico,” said Heppler. “This is his last semester, and if he can get going, then we have a chance.”
For the second time in two spring events, head coach Bruce Heppler will send two first-year players out with his travel squad, Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, N.C., and Daniel Bowden of Easley, S.C., both of whom qualified for the Hilo trip. Hadley earned this trip by tying for 18th place at Hilo (5-under 205), while Bowden (92nd place at Hilo) advanced through team qualifying for the second straight time, beating sophomore Adam Cohan in a playoff for the last spot.