By Matt Winkeljohn
When last they were together and competing officially as a team, it didn’t go well. This is being kind. To be frank, Georgia Tech’s final golf round of last season was abysmal. That makes the Yellow Jackets all the more eager to tee it up today in the Carpet Capital Collegiate.
All five competitors — juniors Seth Reeves, Bo Andrews and Richard Werenski and sophomores Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson – were major players for the Jackets in 2011-’12. They competed almost coast to coast over the summer, Golf World magazine has Tech ranked No. 7 nationally before the season opener, and their qualifying for this event was impressive.
In five combined rounds at East Lake and the Golf Club of Georgia each player finished between nine- and one-under par.
It has been a while since the Jackets began a season without a rookie in the playing lineup. Last year, in fact, they had two in Schniederjans and Albertson. They’ll have none over the next 54 holes.
Still, there’s a bit of an antsy feeling. The Jackets have fared well over the years at the CCC at The Farm outside of Dalton, but . . . you never know. If you thought you did, bet you didn’t see that 19-over par score coming on the final day of NCAA regionals last May, when the Jackets rolled back and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
“I think they think we’re going to have a good team, and they’re excited about everything . . . if you go out and play well one time . . . we’re going to be just fine,” coach Bruce Heppler said. “Until you do that, there is that wonder amongst themselves. The excitement is there. This is a very hard working group, very committed to doing the right things.”
James White graduated, but all other significant players are back from a squad that last year won its third straight ACC title. That was the high point of a season that was more up and down than usual. Beyond the two newcomers, White was inconsistent and there was some churning in the lineup, usually between Andrews, Reeves and Werenski.
Reeves was the odd man out, in fact, heading into the ACCs and the NCAA regionals, but he qualified second this week.
Schniederjans qualified No. 1. That’s kind of like picking up where he left off as he was the Jackets’ low man in the regionals, and before that he sniffed the lead late on the final day at the ACCs before a forgettable final hole.
He advanced to match play less than a month ago in the U.S. Amateur, and fired a 67 in the final round of qualifying at East Lake, which is tricked up pretty well right now as the PGA Championship approaches.
“I think Ollie really started to play well at the end of the spring,” Heppler said. “He certainly didn’t have the year he’d hoped or we hoped. He stressed about that. The last day of ACCs was really good. Ollie shot 67 at East Lake, and that’s one of the better rounds we’ve ever had out there. The rough’s up and the greens are fast right now.
“Richy won the Porter Cup [over the summer], and . . . you hope that they see themselves in a different light. These guys are great . . . they just have to grow into it. We all have reasons to feel good about the season.”
Stay tuned here over the next couple days as we will catch up with at least one of the Tech golfers as they play out the Carpet Capital Classic. It’s easy to have a good feeling about this team, although as Heppler suggests seeing is believing. These guys have to go do what they feel they’re capable doing to improve their chances of doing what they’re capable.
If that doesn’t make sense, welcome to competitive golf.
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