May 15, 2016
Marana, Ariz. – Geared up to advance to the NCAA Championship finals for the 29th time, Georgia Tech’s golf team heads West for its NCAA regional, joining 13 other teams for the Tucson Regional that is being conducted May 16-18 at the Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
TEAM UPDATE – Georgia Tech is ranked No. 48 in the latest Golfstat rankings and No. 41 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index. The Yellow Jackets finished fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, defeating four teams ranked ahead of them in the Golfstat rankings, and finished third (Princeton Invitational) and second (Clemson Invitational) in the two tournaments just prior to that, their best showings of the spring.
The Yellow Jackets finished 14th out of 15 teams in a loaded field and logged their highest score of the year (905, +53) at the Valspar Collegiate Invitational, three weeks after posting their lowest score of the year (857, -7) in a sixth-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic.
The Yellow Jackets posted high finishes of fifth place at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and the United States Collegiate Championship in the fall.
Tech has a 86-58 won-loss record cumulatively this year against a schedule rated the 13th-toughest in the country, and a 16-36-1 mark against top-25 teams. Only Texas, Stanford and Florida have faced more top-25 teams than have the Yellow Jackets.
TECH LINEUP – Tech’s top five players in terms of scoring average will compete at the NCAA regional, led by junior Vincent Whaley (McKinney, Texas), who has three top-5 finishes to his credit this year, including a victory at the Clemson Invitational. He also tied for fifth at the Amer Ari Invitational with a career-low score of 207 (-9) and tied for ninth at the Princeton Invitational. He is ranked No. 79 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index, and leads the Jackets with a 72.12 stroke average and a 72.6 won-loss percentage.
Also in the starting five are sophomore Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.), who led the Jackets (T-7) at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and tied for ninth in Puerto Rico, ranks second on the team in stroke average (73.64). He also is the only one of the Tech five who has experience playing on desert golf courses, having spent his high school years living in Arizona.
Sophomore Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.), who won the Carpet Capital Collegiate in the fall and has four other top-20 finishes, including a tie for 11th at the Puerto Rico Classic and a tie for 12th at Princeton this spring, is second on the team in won-loss percentage and fourth in stroke average (73.88).
Sophomore James Clark (Columbus, Ga.), who has one top-10 finish (Clemson) and a 73.86 stroke average, and junior Michael Hines (Acworth, Ga.), with a 74.74 average in eight events, complete the Tech travel team.
REGIONAL INFORMATION – The Yellow Jackets are playing in an NCAA regional for the 19th straight year and for the 26th time in the 28 years the NCAA has used a regional qualifying format for its championship. They are part of a regional field that includes 14 teams and five individuals. The venue is the Gallery Golf Club, which measures 7,258 yards and plays to a par of 72. Eighteen holes will be played beginning at 7 a.m. each day, Monday through Wednesday.
Tech is playing in an NCAA regional out West for the second straight year, having finished third among 13 teams at last year’s San Diego Regional.
The Tucson Regional will play host to eight teams listed among the nation’s top 50 of the Golfstat rankings, including (in order of seed) national No. 1-ranked Stanford, the Pac-12 champion and an automatic qualifier, No. 12 Wake Forest, No. 13 California, No. 24 Oregon, No. 25 North Carolina, No. 36 North Florida, No. 37 Alabama-Birmingham, No. 48 Georgia Tech, Saint Mary’s (Calif.), the West Coast Conference champion, Georgia State, North Texas, Louisiana Tech, the Conference USA champion, UC Riverside, the Big West champion, and Siena, the MAAC champion.
The top five finishers at each of the six regional sites, all of which take place May 16-18, will advance to the NCAA Championship, which will be contested May 27-June 1 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.. The other sites are Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Ol’ Colony Golf Complex, host: Alabama); Kohler, Wis. (Blackwolf Run Meadow Valley Course, host: Marquette); Albuquerque, N.M. (Championship Course at University of New Mexico, host: New Mexico); Stillwater, Okla. (Karsten Creek Golf Club, host: Oklahoma State) and Nashville, Tenn. (Vanderbilt Legends Club, host: Vanderbilt).
Each regional is a 54-hole, stroke-play event with 13 teams and 10 individuals, or 14 teams and five individuals, competing. The top five teams after 54 holes and one individual not on those teams in each regional advance to the NCAA Championship finals, which has a field of 30 teams and six individuals.
TECH NCAA REGIONAL HISTORY – Georgia Tech has advanced through an NCAA regional 23 times in 25 tries, and all but once since the NCAA went to a six-regional qualifying format in 2009. Head coach Bruce Heppler’s teams have won five regional tournaments outright, most recently in 2014, and tied for one other.
The NCAA began using regional qualifying tournaments in 1989, first with the 81 teams split among three sites (27 teams each), then with six sites with either 13 or 14 teams each beginning in 2009. Since the NCAA went to six regional sites in 2009, Tech has finished third (Bowling Green, Ky.), third (Milton, Ga.), tied for third (Radford, Va.), sixth/did not advance (Norman, Okla.), fourth (Tallahassee, Fla.), first (Raleigh, N.C.) and third (San Diego).
Tech’s first four victories all occurred in 27-team regionals in 1991 (New Haven, Conn.), 1998 (Daufuskie Island, S.C.), 1999 (Providence, R.I.) and 2002 (Roswell, Ga., tied with Clemson). Only the 2014 win occurred in a 13-team field.
COACH Bruce Heppler ON GOLF IN THE ARIZONA DESERT – “This is just wide open. You go from tee box to desert to a small piece of grass to desert to a green. Visually it looks different. You have to continue to pay attention. Because you don’t have the golf course training your eye where to go, you have to pick out a piece of grass, and that becomes your target. You have to stay target-focused, because the golf course doesn’t help you with that. The challenge with the heat and the elevations is, how far does the ball go. That’s why we’re going out early, take the trackman with us and play at a couple of places next door.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 21st year 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). For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.