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NCAA Golf: Tech Doesn't Tempt Fate, Leads After 18

May 16, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Richard Werenski and Bo Andrews might not `fess up” if asked, but it’s a good bet that Georgia Tech’s graduate golfers did not mimic the Bishop Thursday when weather severed their fine rounds on No. 18.

Surely, they bit their tongues because the Yellow Jackets already have had poor weather luck on the Lonnie Cooper Golf Course in Andrews’ home town of Raleigh, N.C.

The Jackets are deep of roster and mind. They’ve seen Caddyshack, and as Tech graduates, they’re too wise to tempt fate.

Tech’s top five golfers built a four-stroke lead in the first (incomplete) walk around their NCAA regional, and Tech moved ahead (at 14-under par) on the strength of their No. 5 and No. 4 golfers, Werenski and Andrews.

When the weather horn blew, Werenski was squaring up a birdie putt on the final green while in first place (among 75 golfers) at 5-under. Andrews, playing in his home town, was on the tee of the same hole while a stroke back of the lead.

Setting aside for a moment the wonky weather situation, depth like Tech’s goes a long way toward a program being good enough to win a national title.

Something similar happened in the Auburn Regional, where No. 1 Alabama — the defending national champion — moved to a six-stroke lead even though their top golfer, Robby Shelton, did not score, and their No. 2 – national player of the year candidate Bobby Wyatt – was the last `Bama hacker to count.

“That’s a testament to their depth,” Andrews said of Alabama after he almost finishes stringing together 13 pars and four birdies.

Really, he could well have been speaking about the Jackets.

Junior Ollie Schniederjans, the ACC champion and player of the year while a national player of the year candidate himself, is 3-under through 14.

Senior Seth Reeves is two-under through 15.

Between them, they’ve won seven tournaments this season.

Junior Anders Albertson, the 2013 ACC champion and 2014 runner-up, is plus-one through 15. “The best teams in the nationals . . . everybody has a chance to be in it,” Andrews said. “We have that. Every day, and you have to have that flexibility.”

Tech head coach Bruce Heppler, in fact, outlined to his team their very depth.

That would hopefully take pressure off each golfer, leaving none to worry that the Jackets’ fates would be tied disproportionately to one or two linksters, but rather that theirs truly is a collective effort.

“As I told the guys [Wednesday] night, everybody on this roster has won either a major amateur event or a college event and [the Jackets] haven’t always been that way,” Heppler told “When you have five guys who can win . . . Richy and Bo are here to win a tournament, that’s how you need to play.”

Werenski and Andrews probably would have preferred to finish out their work, but there was no Carl Spackler present.

If you’re in the dark here, which counts as shameful, here’s a refresher:

In the 1980 big-screen epic, “Caddyshack,” Spackler – a mumbling, bumbling groundskeeper-turned caddy to a man of God who was putting together the best round of his life — suggested to the Bishop as weather rolled in, “I’d keep playing; I don’t think the heavy stuff will come down for a while.”

Here’s a quick refresher.

The Jackets on Thursday were not so offended nor thankless.

The last time Tech was at Lonnie Cooper, the Jackets tied tried to sneak in a practice round during a business trip last fall that fetched a win in the nearby Tar Heel Intercollegiate.

They were there because Heppler anticipated the possibility that his team might be dispatched to the N.C. State regional the next spring, but weather blew them off the course on the back nine.

And Thursday, again it happened. No worries.

Heppler didn’t talk much about the weather afterwards.

“He didn’t have a message,” Andrews said. “We just talked about what time we’re going to go to the movie.”

The Jackets took in, “Captain America,” for which I can in quick research find no catchy analogies or metaphors that relate to Tech golf.

“It was pretty good,” Andrews said.

So, too, were the Jackets. Yet plenty can still happen.

Tech is ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and No. 5 by Golfstat. The Jackets are the No. 1 seed in Raleigh, and No. 8 Washington is No. 2.

The Huskies are four strokes in arrears.

Their No. 2 man, Trevor Simsby, is at four-under with Andrews despite shooting three bogeys in 15 holes. That’s because he also nailed seven birdies. That’s kind of wild.

There is no predicting what happens at this stage, particularly for teams like the Huskies that are sent far afield by the NCAA.

The Jackets failed to make it out of an Oklahoma regional a few years ago when trying to play through unfamiliar weather and course conditions.

Thursday, No. 4 Cal – which has put together an outstanding three years of golf – wound up in seventh place after the first round of a regional in Sugar Grove, Ill. The Bears are 21 strokes behind Alabama-Birmingham and 20 behind Illinois.

Why is Cal in the Midwest? The Bears finished third in the Pac-10 Tournament.

So much is left to be determined, and the Jackets have no interest in tempting fate nor complaining about surroundings.

Andrews, in particular, is quite pleased with his environment.

Although he’s not especially familiar with Lonnie Cooper as it was built a few years ago, he knows his way around North Carolina, knows the air, knows the horticulture.

It does not hurt to see familiar faces — like those of his parents, high school pals and teammates and perhaps on Saturday his high school coach — in the crowd.

“Two of my best friends from back home [are attending]. We keep in touch daily and weekly,” he said. “I love Atlanta, and I love being at Georgia Tech. Being home in the Carolinas is definitely refreshing. It always brings back good memories, and makes you feel good about yourself.”

The Jackets also feel good about themselves.

They compete like mad against each other in practice, and even in tournaments, yet they compete for each other as well.

“I think that we all support each other, and when we see each other playing well it helps,” Andrews said. “When we’re playing well, and you don’t see [teammates], it helps knowing [how capable they are of hitting them straight].”

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