Sept. 8, 2010
ATLANTA – Coming off a final eight finish in the 2010 NCAA Championship and returning four of five starters from that team, Georgia Tech’s golf team opens the fall season Friday in the 22nd annual Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.
The Yellow Jackets are part of a strong 12-team field in the 54-hole event that includes Clemson, Tennessee and Texas Tech, who advanced to the NCAA Championship last year, as well as Alabama, Auburn, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Wake Forest, who played in NCAA regionals.
Tech, which has played in all 22 previous Carpet Capital Collegiate events, has won six times, but it looking for its first victory in this tournament since 2001. Head coach team finished third last fall, placing all five players among the top 30 individuals, led by junior tie for 14th (even-par 216).
Only , an honorable mention All-American last spring and the 2007 Carpet Capital champion, has graduated from last year’s team. The other four players who led Tech into the match play portion of the NCAA Championship – Haley (Dallas, Texas), senior (Wilson, N.C.), senior (Johannesburg, South Africa) and junior (Acworth, Ga.), are back.
Scott won the team’s 108-hole qualifying event, while Haley won the second half (54 holes) of the team qualifying and will make the trip along with Griffin, who was third overall, and White, who was fourth. The fifth spot belongs to freshman (South Hadley, Mass.), who qualified for match play at the U.S. Amateur and won his first round match and has been named one of the nation’s top 10 freshmen to watch by Golfweek magazine.
“We played really well over the six round of qualifying that we had,” said Heppler, entering his 16th year at the helm of the Yellow Jackets. “I thought it was the best golf we’ve played collectively here at home in two or three years. The four guys who are back from last year’s NCAA team got through, and Richy Werenski got a spot by reaching match play at the Amateur, so I fell very good about this team. As I’ve said many times, the better we play at home bodes well for tournaments.
Griffin, ranked among the nation’s top 30 players by Golfweek magazine, was an honorable mention All-American and an All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice last spring after posting a team-best 71.94 stroke average and six top-10 finishes in 12 events. White also was an All-ACC pick, posting a 72.39 stroke average and seven top-20 finishes in 11 events.
“I think we have a great team this year,” said Griffin, who was ranked 28th among college players at the end of last spring. “If we can stay together and play well, we’ll have a shot at the end, and that’s our goal. We came close last year, and it was great to see that we can do it. Our qualifying was really tight this year, no one was assured of a spot going in.”
Haley, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur this summer, finished in the top 20 in four of the Yellow Jackets last five spring events, including a tie for ninth at the NCAA Championship and a tie for fourth at the ACC Championship. Scott tied for 12th at the ACC Championship and had four top-20 finishes overall.
They have been pushed in pre-season qualifying by juniors (Reunion, Fla.), who has made the Chinese team for the World Amateur team championship in October, and (Venetia, Pa.), who qualified for the U.S. Amateur, sophomore (Raleigh, N.C.), and red-shirt freshman (Duluth, Ga.).
Andrews played in six events as a freshman, posting a tie for 24th at last year’s Carpet Capital Collegiate, while Miller and Wang combined to play in four events last year. Wang missed all of last spring with a wrist injury.
“I think our depth this year will be better,” said Heppler. “Ming’s coming off an injury and is healthy. Bo has a year of competition under his belt, Seth is coming off a red-shirt year and is getting better, and William is also playing better. Those guys will push everybody, and we need to see some incremental improvement from the four that played in the NCAAs.
“I felt at the end of the spring, we were playing well enough to win a national championship, and if we can start from there this fall, we’ll have another chance this year out in Stillwater. A lot of those teams that were in the top 10 at the end of last year return four or five starters, too, so it should be a competitive year.”