May 12, 2009
ATLANTA – When Georgia Tech’s golf team, ranked 7th in the nation, begins play Thursday morning at the NCAA Central Regional in Bowling Green, Ky., it will be looking to return to the NCAA Finals for the 11th time in 12 years and for the 22nd time in the last 25 years.
The Yellow Jackets, the No. 2 seed for the regional May 14-16 at the Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky., were unable to advance out of the Central Regional last year in Columbus, Ohio, finishing 15th in the 27-team field on a rainy and wet Ohio State Scarlet Course. This year, the weather forecast is more favorable, and the odds have changed. The new NCAA regional format includes six sites, and five teams from each one advance to the Finals in Toledo, Ohio.
Fourth-ranked Washington is the top seed in the Bowling Green regional, and 10 of the 13 teams there are ranked among the nation’s top 50 teams in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
“In golf, geography makes a difference,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler, who was named ACC Coach of the Year recently for the fifth time in his career. “We’re going to a place that’s all bentgrass, and bluegrass rough that’s six inches high. It’s a lot like Ohio State last year, and it’s a challenge. But if you look at the teams going where we’re going, a lot of them are facing it for the first time.
“It’s a good draw for us, though. If you play well, you get out. It’ll be a little bit different because five teams get out from a 13-team field instead of 10 teams out of a 27-team field. That changes the dynamic a little.”
Other top-50 teams in the Bowling Green regional are, in order of seed, No. 23 NC State, No. 18 UCLA, No. 27 Mississippi, No. 40 East Tennessee State, No. 44 Duke, No. 43 Louisville, No. 50 Ohio State and No. 45 Vanderbilt. Middle Tennessee State, Austin Peay State, Cleveland State and Bucknell round out the 14-team field.
Tech enters regional play with momentum, having captured the Atlantic Coast Conference championship (and thus an automatic bid to the NCAA championship) April 19. The Yellow Jackets also finished third in their own United States Collegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Georgia earlier in April, and event which featured 11 of the nation’s top 15 teams. Tech’s schedule this year is rated the second-toughest in all of college golf.
“This is a team that has gotten better every week, and we’re probably as good right now as we’ve been all year,” said Heppler. “I’m excited because I think our best golf is still ahead of us. We’ve really worked hard to play the whole tournament, not just 18 holes. Do the best you can for 54 holes and see where you end up.”
Senior Cameron Tringale, named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference men’s golf team for the fourth time in his career, leads the Tech contingent into post-season. Tringale, a senior from Laguna Niguel, Calif., became the fourth Georgia Tech player to make the all-conference team four years in a row, joining Matt Kuchar (1997-2000), Bryce Molder (1998-2001) and Roberto Castro (2004-07), and the 12th ACC player to do so since the conference began choosing teams on 1975.
The two-time All-American has won two tournaments this year, missed winning a second ACC title by one stroke, and posted six top-10 finishes in nine tournaments. He has the ACC’s second-best stroke average (71.33), and is ranked No. 3 nationally in this week’s Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
“The whole goal each year is to get to the NCAA’s, play well and try to win,” said Tringale of his last post-season as a Tech player. “We’ve got some good momentum going. We won our last tournament and played well in the one before that, so we’re headed in the right direction.
“It would mean a great deal (to win). This program has had so many great teams over the years, so say you’re on the team that won it would be unbelievable.”
Heppler also will send senior David Dragoo of Scottsdale, Ariz., sophomore John-Tyler Griffin of Wilson, N.C., and junior Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, N.C., all of whom posted top-20 finishes at the USCC, to compete for Tech in the NCAA regional. Dragoo and Griffin have suited up for all nine Tech tournaments this year, while Hadley, who has played in seven events, seems to have regained the form that earned him second-team All-America honors last spring.
Dragoo is the nation’s 96th-ranked player with four top-20 finishes this year and a stroke average of 73.81. He tied for 19th at this year’s U.S. Collegiate Championship with a 6-over-par score of 222. Griffin has a pair of top-5 finishes, including a tie for fourth at the USCC, and averages 74.19 strokes per round.
Hadley, with a tie for third at the ACC Championship (9-under 207) and a tie for 19th at the USCC, has four top-20 finishes in seven tournaments and a stroke average of 74.19. His spring norm, however, is 72.78 in nine rounds.
“Chesson has struggled earlier this year, but he has begun to play much better, and that makes a significant difference for us,” said Heppler.
Freshman James White of Acworth, Ga., who tied for sixth place at Southern Highlands with an 8-under-par score of 208, also tied for sixth at the ACC championship (4-under 212). He has averaged 74.43 in 21 rounds this year, 73.86 in 15 spring rounds.
Each regional is a 54-hole stroke play event with 13 or 14 teams competing (a total of 81 teams earn regional bids). The top five finishers and one individual not on those teams in each regional advance to the 112th NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
The other five regional tournaments will be held the same weekend at Austin, Texas (University of Texas Golf Club, top seed – Stanford), Galloway, N.J. (Galloway National Golf Club, top seed – Clemson), San Francisco, Calif. (Lake Merced Golf Club, top seed-Southern California), Sorrento, Fla. (Red Tail Golf Club, top seed-Georgia) and Stillwater, Okla. (Karsten Creek Golf Club, top seed-Oklahoma State).
Since the regional tournament format was instituted in 1989, Tech has failed to advance to the finals only once in 18 tries, and have won four. The Jackets have played in the NCAA Finals every year but three since 1985, finishing second four times.
2009 NCAA BOWLING GREEN REGIONAL GOLF TOURNAMENT
Site: Club at Olde Stone, Bowling Green, Ky.
Dates: May 14-16 (Thursday-Saturday), practice round on Wednesday, May 13
Host school: Western Kentucky
Teams competing (in order of seed): 1. Washington, 2. Georgia Tech, 3. NC State, 4. UCLA, 5. Mississippi, 6. East Tennessee State, 7. Duke, 8. Louisville, 9. Ohio State, 10. Vanderbilt, 11. Middle Tennessee State, 12. Austin Peay State, 13. Cleveland State, 14. Bucknell
Individuals competing (in order of seed): 1. Mike Van Sickle, Marquette, 2. Sebastian MacLean, Xavier, 3. Trey Bowling, Eastern Kentucky, 4. Tyler Duncan, Purdue, 5. John Montgomery, Alabama State
Format: 54 holes (18 each day). Each team has five players, with the low four individual scores each day counting toward the team total. The top five teams and one individual not on those teams after 54 holes advance to the 112th NCAA Men’s Division I Championship May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (all times local)
Wednesday, May 13 – practice rounds from 8 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time from the No. 1 and 10 tees, according to seed (Georgia Tech at 8 a.m. starting at No. 10 tee)
Thursday, May 14 – first round, tee times from 9:30 – 11:50 a.m. ET from the No. 1 and 10 tees (Georgia Tech will tee off at 9:30 a.m. ET from the No. 1 tee)
Friday, May 15 – second round, from 9:30 – 11:50 a.m. ET from the No. 1 and 10 tees (Georgia Tech will tee off at 10:40 a.m. ET from the No. 1 tee)
Saturday, May 16 – third and final round from 9:30 – 11:50 a.m. ET from the No. 1 and 10 tees (leaders tee off early, tee times based on 36-hole standing)