Sept. 11, 2008
ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech golf team, ranked No. 10 in the pre-season, opens its fall schedule this weekend at the 20th Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga. The 18-team field includes 15 of the nation’s pre-season top 30 teams as projected by Golfweek magazine, including defending champion Alabama.
Tech, the host institution for this event since its inception in 1989, headlines a field that includes top-ranked Georgia, No. 6 Florida and No. 7 Clemson, as well as No. 12 Chattanooga, No. 13 South Carolina, No. 14 East Tennessee State, No. 15 Wake Forest, No. 17 Texas Tech, No. 20 Alabama, No. 22 Tennessee, No. 24 UAB, No. 26 North Carolina, No. 28 Mississippi State and No. 30 Mississippi. Auburn, Central Florida and Georgia State round out the field that will play 54 holes over Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the 7,012-yard, par-72 course.
“This is a tremendous event for us, and the level of competition can’t get much tougher,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “The golf course is a terrific test each year.”
All five players who made up the Yellow Jackets’ post-season lineup last spring return, but not all of them will make the trip this weekend. Tech’s travel squad for the Carpet Capital Collegiate includes three-time All-American Cameron Tringale, seniors Taylor Hall and David Dragoo, sophomore J.T. Griffin and redshirt freshman William Miller.
It is an experienced group, with 83 tournament appearances between them. Tringale, a senior from Laguna Niguel, Calif., finished second on Tech’s squad in stroke average last year (72.22), and posted nine top-20 finishes, five of them in the spring. Hall (LaGrange, Ga.) averaged 73.54, third-best on the team, and finished fifth at the ACC Championship, while Dragoo (Scottsdale, Ariz.) averaged 74.79 and tied for 13th at the conference tournament. Griffin (Wilson, N.C.) came on strong at the end of the spring and played in Tech’s last four events as a counting member.
Junior Chesson Hadley, last year’s Carpet Capital Collegiate champion, was a victim of the Jackets’ improved depth and will not defend his title after finishing seventh in Tech’s 108-hole qualifying tournament.
Tringale fared poorly in last year’s event after injuring himself in a pre-season workout and missing a portion of the team’s qualifying. He tied for 82nd place (77-84-75), while the other four players carried the Jackets to a third-place finish. Heppler points to that occurrence as an example of the importance of qualifying for all members of his team, and is confident that the Jackets can compete for the title this weekend in spite of the absence of Hadley.
“The goal every week is to make sure that no one gets to go unless they are playing well,” said Heppler, beginning his 14th year at the helm of Tech’s golf program. “Not very often do you play poorly in a qualifier and then go to a tournament and things just turn around. Hopefully, since the quality of 1 through 10 is better, whoever No. 5 is has probably played pretty well to get to go. I think that’s the real benefit of it. That makes you more competitive in tournaments.”
Heppler looks for Tringale, whose stroke average without last year’s Carpet Capital was 71.55, to continue his spring surge.
“Cameron has not had great falls here,” said Heppler. “I think he realizes that this is it. And I don’t think he liked being left off those All-American teams last year. He seems to have arrived with maybe a little more purpose than normal.”
Tech has won the Carpet Capital Collegiate six times, but has not captured the title since 2001. Hadley won medalist honors last fall with an 8-under-par score of 208. The Jackets begin this fall with a purpose, having missed advancing to the NCAA finals last spring for the first time in 11 years.