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July 15, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– A guy had a crazy notion the other day. He thought that with Georgia Tech golfers scattered and playing unsupervised amateur tournaments in every direction that coach Bruce Heppler and assistant Christian Newton might be hanging out.

Summer highlights for Tech’s golfers

Then, this fella showed up in the golf office and found them both working like mad men. Upon asking Heppler a few questions, he learned that the head coach has a manic habit of tracking all of his returning players — his words — “hole-by-hole” as they play in the summer.

Heppler, in fact, raised his hand-held communicator/tracking device when asked this question (it might have been a Torch or an iPhone) and grinned.

That’s a big project; today alone Richard Werenski, Seth Reeves, Ollie Schniederjens and Anders Albertson are playing the Southern Amateur in Palm Harbor, Fla.

To get an even better feel for how much time Heppler spends on his gadget, consider this upcoming schedule:

U.S. Amateur Qualifier, July 19-20, Capital City Club-Crabapple, Alpharetta, Ga. (Reeves, Schniederjans)
Palmetto Amateur, July 20-23, Aiken, S.C. (Albertson, Wang)
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational, July 21-24, Columbus, Ohio (White)
Northern Amateur, July 27-29, Chesterton, Ind. (Andrews, Wang, Werenski)
Porter Cup, July 27-30, Lewiston, N.Y. (White)
U.S. Amateur Qualifiers – Aug. 1, Petersburg, Va. (Andrews), Cincinnati, Ohio (Wang), Grove City, Pa. (William Miller); Aug. 1-2, Standard Club, Duluth, Ga. (Albertson)
Western Amateur, Aug. 1-6, Glennview, Ill. (Schniederjans)
U.S. Amateur Qualifiers – Aug. 8, Ellington, Conn. (Werenski); Aug. 9-10, Goldsboro, N.C. (Drew Czuchry)
U.S. Amateur, Aug. 23-28, Erin Hills Golf Club, Erin, Wis.
Walker Cup, Sept. 10-11, Royal Aberdeen, Scotland

So perhaps it should not come as a surprise when Heppler says, “I’m obsessed . . . I’ll watch (on his gadget) every hole every day, and usually send a text message or speak with them every day,” he said. “We can’t instruct them.

“We talk about the day, and we tried to send the younger guys out of here (after the Tech season) with some things they needed to work on, and we tried to establish a team mantra for next year.”

That mantra was pre-emptive, as you’ll see shortly.

When a fantastic team loses three seniors (five players compete in each tournament), people are going to look for holes not to sink balls into but within that team. Some will try to paint the Yellow Jackets as Swiss cheese, reasoning that Tech will be under pressure to extend a string of three straight ACC titles.

Sportswriters being simple folk who fall back on cliché, the logic is easy to see.

White, who hopes to make the U.S. Walker Cup team, will be a senior. Werenski, who competed most of the fall and spring seasons as Tech’s No. 5, will be a sophomore.

Bo Andrews red-shirted and will be a sophomore, Reeves (who competed only as an individual last year) will be a redshirt sophomore, Miller (who also competed only as an individual) will be a senior, Wang (who competed once as an individual) be a junior.

So, now, to the mantra:

“It’s to not let discouragement get in the way,” Heppler said. “One bad swing may cost you a bogey or a double bogey on that hole, but it doesn’t cost you a bogey or a double bogey on the next hole.

“We’re trying to convince them to become very hard to discourage because this bunch is spongey. They just want to learn; they’re young.”

Newton probably just wanted to finish his work the other day.

He was working as if he was manning a Linotype (look it up via search engine), building documents, stuffing envelopes, stamping things . . .

Heppler was finalizing his team’s fall schedule, making travel plans for the autumn, booking recruiting trips for the next month or so, filling out NCAA documents and more.

Golf has no “dead weeks” for recruiting, like most sports do, other than national signing week.

Since the U.S. Junior Amateur is next week and all of the golfers Heppler and Newton are recruiting took this week off, the Tech coaches have been at home (or work, rather) doing the little things – and furiously.

“After the Junior (Nationals), it is literally five straight Monday-to-Fridays, and then we start school,” Heppler said. “The U.S. Amateur, we’ll probably go to that. Two-semester sports, man, we’re going. Christian is doing fund-raising stuff. The fund raiser is in October, and this is the one week where he can print the brochure, the letter, do the mass mailing.

“We try to get the schedule done, all the compliance forms, the classes that are going to be missed. We’re going to be gone, and then school starts. Get all the hotels, airlines, cars done for the fall.”

Part of Heppler’s work is keeping tabs.

“[Graduated seniors] J.T. [Griffin], Paul [Haley] and Kyle [Scott], with those guys you just opened the van and they made pretty good decisions,” he said. “With the guys who haven’t played, they were frustrated . . . it’s nice to know these guys were improving even though they weren’t getting into our tournaments.”

“They need to learn not to be emotional, not to be dramatic, not to feel sorry for themselves . . . all of those sports psychology things. They’re all physically gifted, but they’re also 17 and 18 years old. They haven’t learned how to maintain composure and push through.”

Judging from results this summer, they’re learning fast.


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