Jan. 31, 2012
ATLANTA – For the 14th consecutive year, Georgia Tech’s golf team opens its spring season on the Big Island of Hawai’i, competing against six other top-15 teams in the 22nd annual Amer Ari Invitational, Feb. 1-3, at the Waikoloa Kings’ Course.
The 9th-ranked Yellow Jackets, who won one of four events last fall, are joined for the 54-hole event by No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Stanford, No. 10 Washington and No. 11 Southern California, as well as top 50 programs Oklahoma State, TCU, San Francisco and Oregon State.
Head coach Bruce Heppler has guided the Yellow Jackets to five wins in their 13 previous appearances there, and this year takes a team that will include two freshmen and at least two sophomores.
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 2011 spring campaign in which they won their third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship, finished second in the NCAA East Regional and second in stroke play at the NCAA Championship before falling in the first round of NCAA match Play. This year’s NCAA Championship will be played at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
“We lost three fifth-year seniors who were all-Americans at some point during their career, so we knew it’d be tough starting out with some younger guys,” said Heppler, whose team ended the fall with a fourth-place finish at the United States Collegiate Championship, the team’s home event. “There have been some bumps along the way through the fall, and we really had a nice fall other than one event. The last thing they remember is that we didn’t play well in the last nine holes of our tournament out at The Golf Club of Georgia, and let that get away from us. They’ve been stewing on that now for a couple of months and they’re excited.
“There’s a lot of potential with this group. If we play anywhere near where we’re capable of, and we’re in contention three of the four times in the fall, so it should be a great spring.”
Freshmen Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson finished first and third in the team’s recent 90-hole qualifying event, and they’ll be joined on the traveling squad by sophomores Richy Werenski and Bo Andrews and All-American James White. Sophomore Seth Reeves will go along and compete as an individual.
All six players have a scoring average under 74 and have combined for eight top-10 finishes.
Albertson, the nation’s 29th-ranked player in the current Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, led the Yellow Jackets in the fall with a scoring average of 71.7. The Woodstock, Ga., native posted a pair of top-5 finishes while compiling an 82.8 percent head-to-head winning percentage.
Andrews, from Raleigh, N.C., had a pair of top-10 finishes in the fall while averaging 72.6 strokes per round, while Reeves, Schniederjans, Werenski and White each had one top-10 showing. White, ranked 34th nationally, compiled the team’s second-best stroke average at 71.7.
“I think the guys are really excited to start the spring season tomorrow,” said Heppler. “We have had a couple of days of good practice to get the feel of the grasses and the time change. Qualifying was competitive and these guys really want to succeed. It is a great field and we will be challenged by the competition. It will certainly a good measuring stick for us.”
The tournament will employ a shotgun start each day, Wednesday through Friday, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time (7:30 a.m. local). Live scoring will be available at www.golfstat.com.