May 30, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
It didn’t go very well for Georgia Tech the last time the Yellow Jackets played at Karsten Creek, but the Yellow Jackets are hopeful that having played there last fall will make a big difference in the NCAA Tournament.
They played a practice round Monday at the Stillwater, Okla., course that Oklahoma State calls home. For most of the teams that did not play the same course in last fall’s Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational, it was a rude awakening that might continue.
“You’re only allowed once practice round now, and other teams will have all these memories of balls in the trees and high scores,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “We have made an effort to talk about how great it is going to be to see how you can do, to see if you can beat the big, bad golf course.”
Senior Kyle Scott, who has finished runner-up in Tech past three tournaments, tied for 21st at Karsten Creek last fall when the Jackets finished seven among 14 teams in one of their least impressive performances of the year.
“I’m not going to lie; it was pretty tough,” Scott said. “But the [NCAA] regional we just played [at Virginia Tech] helped because the fairways were really tight and the greens were really small so a lot of accuracy was required from you tee shots and approach shots.
“Karsten Creek is a little wider although if you miss the fairways, there is a lot of trouble.”
Karsten Creek is 7,403 yards but does not play as long as Virginia Tech did a couple weeks ago, which figures to benefit Paul Haley.
He won back-to-back tournaments, including the ACC championship, before failing to score in the regional. He was Tech’s low man last fall on this course, shooting a five-over-par 221 to tie for ninth place.
“Oklahoma State’s been playing really well and it’s their home course, but it’s not a stroke-play event after the first three days,” he said. “I feel like if we continue to play well we should have a good chance. It definitely helps that we played here.
“I’m glad that we played the Preview in the fall. Some teams that didn’t, the first time it might be kind of intimidating for them because it’s a pretty visually intimidating course.”
James White shot an 81 at Karsten Creek in the final round last fall, and Richie Werenski shot 86 (after shooting a 70 in his second round).
Having been through that, the Jackets return with a better plan.
“I think it’s huge. There were some people who stayed away [from the Preview] because some people think it’s the little shop of horrors,” Heppler said.
“I’ve always felt that golf courses that are visually intimidating, the more you play them the easier they get. The more you go around places, the more you realize there’s more room than you think.”