May 28, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech Golf is on a roll at just the right time.
They secured a third straight ACC Tournament Championship and finished second in last weekend’s NCAA East Regionals.
Armed with a roster in which all five players rank in the nation’s top 140 according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index — Kyle Scott, No. 8, John-Tyler Griffin, No. 11, James White, No. 14, ACC Champion Paul Haley, No. 68, and Richard Werenski, No. 139 — the Yellow Jackets head to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the NCAA Finals as the fourth seed and hungry for a title.
The trip will be the 25th NCAA Finals berth in program history.
Coaching a team at Karsten Creek Golf Course in Stillwater will be a homecoming for Head Coach Bruce Heppler, who was an assistant at Oklahoma State from 1991 through 1995 before he took the head coach job at Georgia Tech on June 27, 1995.
Heppler took a few minutes to talk with Sting Daily about going back to his old stomping grounds, the roll the team is on heading in, and how seeing his team in free-fall this past weekend was actually a good thing.
STING DAILY: What’s the mindset of the team heading to Stillwater for this week’s NCAA Tournament Finals?
Bruce Heppler: It’s why you start every August, to have a chance to go to that Tournament and see what you can do. It’s a little bit of extra for me having coached there for four years. I’ve already been back there once in 2003. But I have a lot of friends there and was involved in the development of Karsten Creek, so it will be a little bit of an Oklahoma State reunion. I’m looking forward to going back.
SD: Can knowing the area and the course work to the Yellow Jackets’ advantage?
BH: I hope so. We finished 11th in 2003, which I think was a little bit of an over-achievement. So, hopefully, having to walk around there, every square foot of it for four years, three years, anyway, maybe it can help them in some way with their preparation. So, I think so.
SD: Are you happy with the team’s current level of play?
BH: They couldn’t be in a better place. They’ve worked really hard and they’re prepared. I told them after practice on Friday, ‘The hay is in the barn.’ They’ll spend [Saturday] going through getting their bags packed, maybe do a little bit of practicing, kind of get their lives together, not be in a hurry and we’ll get on the plane on Sunday. I think we’ll do as well as we can.
SD: The team went to Six Flags on Friday. How did that trip come about?
BH: They started taking about it on Wednesday and Thursday and I think it was a great diversion. They wanted to go have some fun together. At this point in the year it’s a little bit of just killing time. There’s no school involved and you just can’t practice for 12 or 13 hours every day. I thought it was fun going down there, we rode some rides, and had a good time and hopefully that will take their mind off it.
SD: Do you see the trip becoming a tradition?
BH: It’s funny. We did something like this in 1995, when I was at Oklahoma State and we ended up winning the whole thing. So, it would have been that or something. It was time to kind of stop working and have some fun together.
SD: What was the ride they most enjoyed?
BH: I think they liked Goliath. But it was great…No, wait, it was the Sky Coaster, where they got tied together and you kind of turn into the big swing. I think that was the ride of the day. It’s kind of like a big swing, but you can put three of them in a harness. You free-fall like 175 feet. I think that got their attention. It got the edge off.