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Proper Spacing

Feb. 27, 2011

Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Prime as the weather was, the Georgia Tech golf team did not compete this past weekend, at least not against other teams. And that was a good thing for academic reasons.

The anatomy of the college golf schedule is unlike any other sport, and in some distinct ways it benefits the players’ efforts in the classroom.

Although the golf team travels and competes in both semesters, unlike, say, the football or baseball teams, the linksters (always kinda liked that word) have a certain academic advantage over their Tech S-A peers.

For the most part, they have at least a week off between competitions, and that allows them to zero in on class projects, papers, etc.

“It helps for sure,” said junior James White.

While the golfers play the longest season of the year – their first competition of the “year” was the Carpet Capital Collegiate near Dalton, Ga., back on Sept. 10, and their final outing (hopefully) will be the NCAA championships May 30-June 6.

In between, they go to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Oklahoma, Alpharetta, North Carolina, Alabama, and Macon (among destinations), and when they’re out of town, they’re out of town for multiple days, also unlike the basketball and football teams.

That’s a disadvantage of sorts, but most would say it is outweighed by not having to grind every consecutive week in both academics and athletics in consecutive like so many teams.

But what about the competitive effect?

You lose a game in the NFL, or in college football, and you don’t really – usually – want a bye. Chances are you want to get right back at it, get out there and try to beat somebody.

In golf, it’s no different.

After winning in Puerto Rico last week, White would’ve loved to have had a tournament this past weekend with a chance to extend his groove.

No dice. If it were up to White, the Jackets would’ve been “on” this past weekend.

“Yeah, absolutely; I might as well [play],” he said. “I would rather it be [that way]. I finished on top after three days, but it might as well have been six days [like the NCAAs] . . . just keep playing, keep going.”

Truth be told, the spring golf schedule gets a little more tight than what the Jackets experience in the fall. They have exactly one week between the end of their next event (the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas) and the start of the event after that (the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship), and then six days without competition before lacing `em up again.

Then, there will be but five days between the end of the Yellow Jacket Classic (April 16-17) and the ACC Championships (April 22-24), but that’s because coach Bruce Heppler goes out of his way almost all of the school year to schedule in a way that allows the Jackets to over-focus on their schoolwork most of the time, yet stay fresh on the course when the marbles are rolling around for meaning.

It’s a strange thing, the golf schedule, and even White admits there are times he’s glad to have breaks in competition. He’s won two of his past three tournaments, and finished in the top 10 in his past four, yet he’s been in positions where all time off is a good thing to de-scramble the brain, and work on the game.

“It is nice to come back and have four or five days where you don’t have to grind,” he said. “And that can be a great chance to get back from a tournament and clear your mind of anything that didn’t work well . . . start from basics.”

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