Feb. 18, 2017
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s golf team returns to action for its second event of the spring season this weekend, traveling to Rio Grande, Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Classic, which begins Sunday.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech is making its 25th appearance in the Puerto Rico Classic, typically the second event on the Yellow Jackets’ spring schedule after its opening trip to Hawai’i, having participated in every renewal of this tournament. The 54-hole event runs from Sunday through Tuesday with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. each day. It is played at the 7,074-yard, par 72 River Course at the Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort.
Eleven of the 15 teams in the field are ranked among the nation’s top 50 in the Golfstat rankings – Georgia (9), Mississippi (15), North Carolina (17), Clemson (22), Georgia Tech (28), Northwestern (36), Purdue (40), Kentucky (42), Middle Tennessee State (47), Alabama (48) and NC State (50). Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Maryland and UNC Greensboro round out the field.
The Yellow Jackets finished sixth in last year’s Puerto Rico Classic, with junior Chris Petefish pacing Tech with a ninth-place finish individually. Tech has won the event five times and finished second six times. Six Jackets have earned medalist honors, including Mikko Rantanen (1994), Stewart Cink (1995), Matt Kuchar (1998), Troy Matteson (2002), Roberto Castro (2007) and James White (most recently in 2011).
COACH HEPPLER AUDIO
TEAM UPDATE – Georgia Tech is ranked No. 28 in both the latest Golfstat rankings and Golfweek Sagarin Index after the first spring event, in which the Yellow Jackets tied for seventh place in a 21-team field at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawai’i. Tech has a 30-26-4 won-loss record cumulatively this year against a scheduled rated the third-toughest in the country, according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Index (doesn’t include Cyrpess Point match play event in the fall. Only five teams have faced more top-25 opponents in tournament events than has Tech.
The Yellow Jackets posted high finishes of fifth place at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and sixth in the Maui Invitational in the fall.
TECH LINEUP – Head coach Bruce Heppler will again go with a core of three freshmen in Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) in his starting five for Puerto Rico, joining juniors James Clark (Columbus, Ga.) and Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif), who won the team’s qualifying process for this event. Sophomore Tyler Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.) will compete as an individual.
The ever-improving Strafaci posted his first top-20 finish (T13) at the Amer Ari Invitational, firing a 54-hole total of 208 (-8). Ogletree tied for 22nd place at 211 (-5), and Clark also broke par at 212 (-4).
Schniederjans, who won the Carpet Capital Collegiate in the fall, did not enjoy a great performance in Hawai’i, but remains the Yellow Jackets’ scoring average leader at 71.33. Clark and Strafaci are second at 71.50. Petefish (72.08 average) has the team’s only other top-10 individual finish this year, a tie for ninth at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate.
COACH Bruce Heppler SAYS – “This is a great tournament for is because of the weather and the quality of the field. I’d say we’ve been more prepared this year than we have the last few (because of the mild winter in Atlanta). We’ve had only three of four bad days, and those were all on one weekend. We’ve had more chances to practice and do some things. With the addition of these freshmen, we’re better than we were a year ago. They’ve all earned their way into the lineup again for this tournament. Along with a couple of juniors, we’re still young, but I think we’re moving in the right direction. I have pretty high expectations for how we’re going to play down there, in spite of the strong field. I think we’re getting better.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is entering its 22nd under head coach Bruce Heppler. The Yellow Jackets have won 16 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 28 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up four times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GT_Golf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.