Feb. 25, 2006
ATLANTA – Now up to No. 2 nationally following its 14-shot victory over Oklahoma State in the UH-Hilo Intercollegiate two weeks ago, Georgia Tech’s golf team will face top-ranked Georgia among others beginning Sunday at the Puerto Rico Intercollegiate in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
The field for the event, in which the Yellow Jackets are the defending champions, includes the nation’s top four teams (Georgia, Tech, Oklahoma State and Florida), as well as nine of the nation’s top 25 (No. 10 Duke, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Minnesota, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 16 East Tennessee State).
Tech has won the Puerto Rico Classic four times and finished second twice in the last eight years. The event is played at the 6,945-yard, par 72 River Course at Westin Rio Mar Country Club.
“The field is really good as it always is,” said head coach Bruce Heppler, named midseason coach of the year by Golf World magazine prior to the Yellow Jackets’ spring season-opening win. “It’s a lot like the PGA Tour in that guys keep going back to places where they’re successful. When you have success, you look forward to playing there. We’re taking two guys who have never played there before, but I think it fits both of their games just fine.
“The bar that we need to jump over to be really good at the end of the year is down there, and we try and do that in our scheduling, so I’m excited about it. It’s never too early to get momentum.”
Heppler has two players among the top 10 individuals in the nation according to the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index – Kevin Larsen at No. 4 and Roberto Castro at No. 8. Freshman Cameron Tringale, who won medalist honors in Hawaii, has risen to No. 33 in the rankings.
“He’s worked on some things in his game over the holidays, and his launch conditions and his trajectory with his drive is now much better into the wind,” Heppler said of Tringale, whose first collegiate victory came in his sixth event. “He drove the ball really well in Hawaii, and it showed that the things he’d been worked on really made a difference. He chipped and pitched the ball really well over there.
“You go back to hoping that this does some good for everyone else. Sometimes that can be really contagious on an individual front. I hope we get some good feedback from that.”
Larsen, a junior from Santa Barbara, Calif., has finished in the top 10 in all five events he has played this year, leading the Yellow Jackets in stroke average at 70.33. Castro, a junior All-American from Alpharetta, Ga., has five top-20 finishes (one top-10) and has averaged 70.87 in five events. Tringale, from Laguna Niguel, Calif., has the team’s third-best stroke average at 72.14.
They will be joined in the Tech lineup by Mike Barbosa, a senior from St. Petersburg, Fla., who tied for 15th in the Puerto Rico Classic a year ago, and Taylor Hall, a freshman from LaGrange, Ga., who has one top-10 finish this year and a 72.22 stroke average.
Barbosa has played his best golf of the year recently, having gone 4-0 at the Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship at the end of the fall, and tied for 17th at the UH-Hilo Intercollegiate. Hall shot a 66 last Saturday from the tips at Augusta National Golf Club, where the team had its annual outing.