May 15, 2007
Looking to keep its record perfect in advancing out of NCAA regional qualifying tournaments, Georgia Tech’s golf team, ranked 10th in the nation, will be the No. 5 seed in the NCAA East Regional, which begins Thursday on the Yellow Jackets’ home course, The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, 45 minutes north of downtown Atlanta.
Since the NCAA began the current regional qualifying format in 1989, Tech has played in an NCAA regional every year except for 1996 and 1997, and has never failed to advance to the NCAA Championship. Tech has never finished below a tie for seventh in an NCAA regional, and has finished in the top five 13 out of 16 times, including four victories.
Tech earned an automatic berth by sharing the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship last month. The Yellow Jackets are joined in the East by two other teams from its home state, including top-ranked and top-seeded Georgia, the top seed in this regional and No. 27 Georgia State. In all, 16 of the 27 teams coming to Atlanta are ranked among the nation’s top 44 in the latest Golfweek rankings.
Among the teams Tech has faced in tournaments this year, the Jackets have a winning record against all except Clemson (2-4-1) and Georgia (0-4-1), the top two seeds in the field. Tech is 4-2 against third-seed Florida, and has not faced fourth-seed Coastal Carolina.
The full East Regional field, in order of seed, includes Georgia, Clemson, Florida, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Charlotte, North Carolina, Florida State, Duke, Auburn, Mississippi, Chattanooga, Alabama-Birmingham, Central Florida, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Old Dominion, Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Lafayette, St. John’s, Eastern Michigan, Maryland, Longwood, Rhode Island, Hartford and Boston College.
The other two regional tournaments will be held the same weekend at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., (Central Regional) and at Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Ariz. (West Regional). Each regional is a 54-hole stroke play event with 27 teams and six individuals competing. The top 10 finishers and two individuals not on those teams in each regional advance to the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, May 30-June 2 at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va.
The NCAA East Regional is being contested at The Golf Club of Georgia’s Lakeside Course, a 7,017-yard, par 72 layout with demanding, firm and fast greens. It was honored in 1991 by Golf Digest as “Best New Private Course” in America and annually hosts The United States Collegiate Championship. In 1999, Golf Digest honored Lakeside’s par-5, 607-yard 11th hole as one of “America’s Best 99 Golf Holes.”
The Yellow Jackets will be paired for the first two days with No. 4 seed Coastal Carolina and No. 6 seed Georgia State. They will tee off from the No. 1 tee Thursday between 11:30 a.m. and 12:08 p.m., then from No. 10 Friday between 7:18 and 7:56 a.m. Pairings for Saturday’s final round will be determined by team standing at the end of 36 holes.
JACKETS SHOW STEADY IMPROVEMENT IN SPRING SEASON
After a disappointing fall season in which Georgia Tech barely remained in the national top-20, the Yellow Jackets have developed into a solid team in the spring, thanks to outstanding play from All-Americans Roberto Castro and Cameron Tringale at the top two positions, and the steady development of freshman Chesson Hadley into a solid No. 3 player in Tech’s lineup. Tech enters the post-season ranked No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
Tech has not played since the middle of April, when it shared the Atlantic Coast Conference championship for the second straight year. The Yellow Jackets also have a pair of fourth-place showings at the UH-Hilo Invitational back in early February and in its own event, the United States Collegiate Championship, in early April.
Castro and Tringale are both ranked among the nation’s top 25 individuals in the Sagarin ratings, Castro at No. 10 and Tringale at No. 22. They are the only Yellow Jackets to participate in every event this year, and rank No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring average. Castro’s average of 71.57 and Tringale’s average of 71.61 would both rank among the top 15 ever recorded at Tech if the season ended today.
Castro, a senior from Alpharetta, Ga., and a four-time all-ACC selection, has been the Yellow Jackets’ top performer this spring, averaging 70.63 over 16 rounds and posting top 10 finishes in six straight events dating back to the end of the fall. Castro captured his first collegiate title in February, taking co-medalist honors at the Puerto Rico Classic.
Tringale, a sophomore from Laguna Niguel, Calif., has four top-10 finishes in five spring events (tied for 17th in the other), posting a 70.94 average in 16 rounds. He tied for fifth at the UH-Hilo Invitational and was the runner-up by one stroke in the ACC Championship last month.
After not playing in the fall, Hadley made the team for its trip to Hilo and tied for 18th, and has played in every event since, averaging 73.06 over 16 rounds. He tied for ninth last month in his first ACC Championship. Larsen, who tied for 19th at the ACC Championship, his best finish of the year, and has averaged 73.21 in 28 rounds this year. Hall, who didn’t play a spring event until the Apr. 9-11 United States Collegiate, tied for 25th at the ACC Championship and has averaged 75.09 in 22 rounds this year.
QUOTING HEAD COACH Bruce Heppler
On the relative strength of the East Regional compared to the other two – “I don’t know that they’ll ever be able to move enough teams (away) from this part of the country to make it even. To get out of here, you have to play well, and that’s true of all three of them. The golf in this part of the world is so strong, and there are so many teams, the committee is hampered by how many teams they can move. It’ll be tough, and hopefully playing at home will be a positive for our guys. We’ve always tried to focus on winning this rather than just qualifying, and if you get anywhere near that, then you’re okay. It’ll be a big test. The golf course is in good shape.”
On whether playing at Tech’s home course brings pressure or comfort to Tech’s players – “I’ve heard both theories. I hope it makes us more comfortable. We didn’t have to travel, and we’ve just been doing what we normally do. The fact that we’ve played two tournaments there should make us more comfortable.”
On Tech’s team evolving into a solid unit in time for post-season – “What we have now is what we had hoped for in the fall – Roberto and Cameron playing at an All-American level. The biggest difference is that Chesson didn’t play in the fall, and now he’s come in to play No. 3 and finished ninth in the ACC Championship. Kevin and Taylor both have had their days, so now you’ve got a five-man team. This is a little more of what I envisioned in August, but it’s taken a little longer to put it all together.”