May 25, 2009
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s golf team, ranked No. 8 in the nation and seeded No. 10 in the championship, tees off along with 29 other teams Tuesday at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, looking forward to the opportunity to play head-to-head for a chance at the national title.
For the first time since 1965, the team champion in the NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Championship will not be determined solely by total strokes. The championship begins with a 54-hole stroke-play tournament, with the top eight teams playing off in a single-elimination match-play bracket.
The Yellow Jackets, the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference champions, are paired with No. 11 Texas A&M and No. 12 Illinois for the first two rounds, teeing off at 1:17 p.m. Tuesday and 8:07 Wednesday. The third round will be played Thursday, after which the top eight teams will be seeded for match play based on their 54-hole finish.
The quarterfinals and semifinals will be held on Friday, May 29, with the championship match set for Saturday, May 30. During the match-play portion of the championships, each match will be worth one point with all five players participating. The first team to win three points within the team match will advance or, in the case of the championship match, be declared the national champion.
Tech head coach Bruce Heppler, a strong proponent of the new format, anticipates a much more friendly way for fans to follow their teams, and believes the players will enjoy the chance to play another opponent head-to-head.
“We’ve played in some match-play tournaments since I’ve been here, and although the NCAA is everyone’s favorite event, I think if you polled our players, match play has been their favorite,” said Heppler, the 2009 ACC Coach of the Year whose Yellow Jackets advanced to the Finals by finishing third in the NCAA Central Regional a week ago.
“With the exception of the BCS, everybody has a bracket. That’s what sports fans understand: two teams matched up against each other, two players matched up against each other. I’m hoping that it will bring this sport out of the closet, so to speak, and people can see matchups like we do in football, a Texas vs. USC, a Cameron Tringale vs. Rickie Fowler. I think we’ve been missing that (element). I’m hoping those matches become as exciting as those you see in the Walker Cup and the Ryder Cup.”
Tringale, a Tech senior from Laguna Niguel, Calif., leads Tech into the NCAA Championship after having been named to the All-ACC team for the fourth time in his career. The two-time All-American has won two tournaments this year, missed winning a second ACC title by one stroke, and posted six top-10 finishes in nine tournaments. He has the ACC’s second-best stroke average (71.33), and is ranked No. 4 nationally in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
Heppler also will send senior David Dragoo of Scottsdale, Ariz., sophomore John-Tyler Griffin of Wilson, N.C., and junior Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, N.C., to compete for Tech in the NCAA Championship. Dragoo and Griffin have suited up for all 10 Tech tournaments this year, while Hadley, who has played in eight events, seems to have regained the form that earned him second-team All-America honors last spring.
Griffin, who owns Tech’s second-best stroke average at 74.00 for the year, tied for 11th at the NCAA Central Regional and has risen to No. 123 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Hadley, with a tie for third at the ACC Championship (9-under 207), has four top-20 finishes in eight tournaments and a stroke average of 74.25. His spring norm, however, is 73.25 in 12 rounds.
Dragoo is the nation’s 138th-ranked player with four top-20 finishes this year and a stroke average of 74.10. Freshman James White of Acworth, Ga., who tied for sixth at the ACC championship (4-under 212), has averaged 74.54 in 24 rounds this year.
“We said after the end of last season that our goal, or mantra, for this year was to play the whole tournament, play every hole and finish things,” said Heppler. “I thought our guys did a great job of that (at the regional). That lesson has been learned, and they believe in it, and it has produced some positive results. Nine of the top 30 teams in the country are not going to be (at nationals). There are no more cakewalks. If you have a bad round, you’re going to miss.”
Oklahoma State, the nation’s top-ranked team in this week’s Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and the champion of the South Central Regional, is the top seed, followed by Alabama (Northeast Regional champion), Florida (Southwest), Arizona State (West), UCLA (Central) and Georgia (second in the Southeast Regional). Washington, Arkansas and Tennessee are the 7-8-9 seeds.
The Inverness Club, a par-71, 7,255-yard course, was founded in 1903 and has hosted four U.S. Open championships, one U.S. Amateur, one U.S. Senior Open and two PGA Championships.
“The grass that we played on last week was terrific preparation,” said Heppler. “I thought our guys got to be pretty good at handling that. You just don’t see that kind of long rough here in the South, so it was an advantage to play four days on that and get some experience with it heading into the championship. One of the major differences, however, is that the fairways will be narrower.”
2009 NCAA DIVISION I MEN’S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
Site: Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio (par-71, 7,255 yards)
Dates: May 26-30 (Tuesday-Saturday)
Host school: University of Toledo
Admission: Day pass — $15, All-tournament pass — $35 (call 419-530-4653)
Teams competing (in order of seed): 1. Oklahoma State, 2. Alabama, 3. Florida, 4. Arizona State, 5. UCLA, 6. Georgia, 7. Washington, 8. Arkansas, 9. Tennessee, 10. Georgia Tech, 11. Texas A&M, 12. Illinois, 13. Stanford, 14. South Carolina, 15. Southern California, 16. Central Florida, 17. Texas Tech, 18. Oregon, 19. Texas, 20. Chattanooga, 21. Arizona, 22. Virginia, 23. Ohio State, 24. Northwestern, 25. San Diego, 26. TCU, 27. Wake Forest, 28. Duke, 29. Michigan, 30. Iowa.
Individuals competing (in order of seed): 1. Kyle Stanley (Clemson), 2. Matt Hill (NC State), 3. Hugues Joannes (Lamar), 4. Corey Nagy (Charlotte), 5. Brady Johnson (Brigham Young), 6. Cody Paladino (Baylor)
Competing for Georgia Tech: Cameron Tringale (Sr., Laguna Niguel, Calif.), John-Tyler Griffin (So., Wilson, N.C.), David Dragoo (Sr., Scottsdale, Ariz.), Chesson Hadley (Jr., Raleigh, N.C.), James White (Fr., Acworth, Ga.)
Format: 54 holes of stroke play to determine the individual medalist. The top eight teams in the standings after 54 holes will be seeded in a match-play bracket to determine the team champion. All five players from each team will participate (5 vs. 5, 4 vs. 4 and so on) with each individual match counting one point for the team. First team to accumulate three points wins the match and advances, or in the case of the championship match, is declared the national champion.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (all times local)
Tuesday, May 26: 7 a.m. – 1st Round (156 players- 30 teams); Georgia Tech tees off at 1:17 p.m. from the first tee.
Wednesday, May 27: 7 a.m. – 2nd Round (156 players- 30 teams); Georgia Tech tees off at 8:07 a.m. from the 10th tee.
Thursday, May 28: 7 a.m. – 3rd Round (156 players- 30 teams, tee times based on 36-hole finish). Individual champion crowned on 18th green following Thursday’s play.
Friday, May 29: Match play begins for top eight teams; 7 a.m. – Quarterfinal matches off 1st tee, 2 p.m. – Semifinal matches off 1st tee
Saturday, May 30: 10 a.m. – Championship match off 1st tee