Feb. 25, 2005
ATLANTA – Looking for its first tournament victory of the year after four runner-up finishes, Georgia Tech’s No. 3-ranked golf team visits Puerto Rico this weekend for the Puerto Rico Classic, which begins Sunday.
The 18-team field, which includes the nation’s top three teams in Oklahoma State (1), Georgia (2) and Tech, as well as six other teams ranked in the top 25 of the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. The Cowboys moved to the top position after running away with the Taylor Made/Waikoloa Intercollegiate two weeks ago, defeating the Yellow Jackets by seven shots.
Tech has four second-place finishes and two thirds among its six events this year, and the Yellow Jackets, Cowboys and Bulldogs are within .09 of each other in the Golfweek rankings. This 54-hole event runs through Tuesday, with 18 holes played each day.
Nicholas Thompson, a senior from Coral Springs, Fla., and Roberto Castro, a sophomore from Alpharetta, Ga., have been Tech’s leaders all year. Castro has the higher Golfweek ranking (No. 3) among collegiate players and leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring at 70.07, but Thompson (No. 8 in the rankings) has won two of the last four events in which he has played.
Thompson won last weekend’s Jones Cup Invitational in Sea Island, Ga., an amateur event which is regarded as a preview to the Walker Cup matches later this summer, and also won the Western Refining Collegiate All-America Classic last November. In between, he finished fourth at the Dixie Amateur in early January and tied for 11th in Tech’s first spring tournament at Waikoloa. He carries a stroke average of 70.39 and his career norm of 72.07 is the fifth-best ever at Georgia Tech.
“He’s worked hard to be a better putter,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “He has played well in the past and still lost. The win in November helped him to win in Sea Island. If you just keep playing, you never know when there’s going to going to be a great stretch of holes. Over years of playing, you find out that it can come anywhere. He’s worked on all those things, and now he knows he can.”
Castro, meanwhile, has finished in the top 20 of all five stroke play events in which the Yellow Jackets have participated, with four of those in the top 10. He tied for fourth at Waikoloa with a 17-under-par score of 199, and also was fourth in the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational in the fall. Castro finished sixth at the Jones Cup.
Song, who has five top-20 finishes (two top-10s) in six tournaments this year, carried a 71.33 stroke average and tied for 11th in Tech’s first spring tournament at Waikoloa. Song, who tied for eighth at the Jerry Pate National in the fall and tied for 10th at the Western Refining event in November, defeated Thompson by seven shots in the team’s qualifying tournament for the Puerto Rico event.
“It’s very positive that the two seniors who played well in Hawaii could have sat back knowing that we would have taken them on this trip. ‘I don’t have to make a big deal of [qualifying],” said Heppler. “Chan goes out and shoots 10-under par and wins by seven. I thought that was a good thing for the team this spring that those two guys aren’t sitting around not taking care of their business.”
Barbosa, who won the Cardinal Amateur last summer, has played consistently well for the Yellow Jackets since last spring, carrying a 72.20 stroke average for Tech this year and finishing 22nd or higher in four events. Larsen tied for 10th at the Jones Cup, tied for sixth at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in his only fall event, and has a 72.00 stroke average.
TECH PROGRAM THIRD-BEST OVER LAST 20 YEARS
Georgia Tech has been ranked third-best among the nation’s top collegiate programs over the past 20 years, according to a survey by golf writer Scott Wraight on SI.com. Wraight, in his column entitled “The Front Nine,” takes into account the number of national titles won, number of first-team All-Americans a school has had, name players that have come out of the program, and success at the NCAA Tournament.
Wraight writes about Tech: “There hasn’t been a hotter program at the NCAA Championships the last five years than Georgia Tech, finishing 12th or better each year. The Rambling Wreck have more Jack Nicklaus Award winners (four) than any school — Bryce Molder took home the honor twice. Other than Mickelson, David Duval and Molder are the only other players to be four-time first-team All-Americas. Even though Ga. Tech hasn’t won a national title the last 20 years, Roberto Castro and Nicholas Thompson (both ranked in Golfweek’s Top 10) might make it happen soon.
His entire survey can be viewed at The Front Nine
TECH GOLFERS PREVALENT IN PRE-WALKER CUP EVENTS
Georgia Tech has had a strong presence at a couple of events designed to bring together potential members of the United States Walker Cup team. The Walker Cup, pitting U.S. and British amateur players in a Ryder Cup format, will be played Aug. 13-14 outside of Chicago, Ill.
Nicholas Thompson, Roberto Castro and Mike Barbosa all participated in a Walker Cup invitation-only “camp” in early January in Florida. Those three, as well as Tech teammates Chan Song, Kevin Larsen and Thomas Jordan, all played in the third biennial Jones Cup Invitational last weekend at the Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.
Thompson won the event by two shots, outlasting among others, Castro, who finished sixth, and Larsen, who finished 10th. Song and Barbosa tied for 24th.