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#STINGDAILY: Jackets Say Aloha

Feb. 1, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– It doesn’t count as a vacation because it’s not, but it sure doesn’t hurt when the Georgia Tech golf team goes to Hawai’i every year.

The Yellow Jackets will leave today for the Amer Ari Invitational in Waikoloa Wednesday-Friday, and they’re not complaining.

Well, maybe junior Seth Reeves is complaining, but that would be because he’s not leaving. Reeves fell quite ill the middle of Tech’s 108-hole qualifying gauntlet and could not finish. That’s kinda brutal.

Bo Andrews is replacing him. Otherwise, the travel squad will be the same group that rallied for the epic win in the U.S. Collegiate Championship to close out last fall: Ollie Schniederjens, Anders Albertson, Michael Hines and Richard Werenski.

They’re not sad.

“It’s a reward, no doubt,” said coach Bruce Heppler. “We’re one of the few teams on the East Coast that can do this, and we use it in recruiting.”

The Amer Ari, which will run from Wednesday-Friday, will not be the only far-flung spring trip for the golfers – who almost always turn in the highest academic marks among all Tech teams.

Tech will follow that up with trips to Puerto Rico later this month, Las Vegas next month and Tampa in April (among other tournaments).

The Jackets did not leave Georgia in the fall, when the autumnal version of college golf began disastrously for the Jackets with an 11th place finish in the Carpet Capital Collegiate, and then ratcheted violently upward.

Tech tied for the title in the PING/Golfweek Preview at the Capital City-Crabapple, which will be trampled by all the NCAA for the national championships in June, finished second in the Brickyard Collegiate, and then staged that wonderful last-golfer, last-hole win at the USCC.

Heppler – one of the very best fund raisers not only among Tech coaches, but all college golf coaches – will be first to tell you that coming off success, let alone a massive win, is a better way to go into the important spring season than the alternative.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve played, and one of the reasons that we do the qualifying is to give the ones who did not have a great fall a chance,” he said. “You might as well get your boxing gloves on … let’s play the best we can to see where we are, and it goes back to recruiting because you told them we would do that.”

Freshman Shun Yat Hak will travel with the Jackets, too, to compete as an individual. He and Andrews were tied for the final team spot on the 108th tee box in qualifying. Andrews birdied. Hak bogeyed.

That’s the way Heppler rolls, by creating a non-stop competitive environment right down to the team ping-pong battles.

He’s not much of a swing coach. He’s the team psychologist/manager. Good news, though. He has a swing coach now. Heppler hired former South Florida assistant Brennan Webb in December to replace Christian Newton, who took the Colorado State head coaching job right before the fall season began.

We’ll have more here on Webb in the near future. For now, another serving of Heppler:

“The players’ relationship is different with him, like it was with Christian, because I have to be the heavy hand,” Heppler said. “And like Christian, he can still play. He’s fantastic. I had several candidates from very high-powered programs who had never experienced anything but success and had been kind of shooting fish in a barrel.

“With Brennan coming from South Florida, I kind of felt there was an underdog mentality and [since] it’s different here in that you can’t just go recruit every player … he’s raring to go. So far I’m outrageously pleased.”

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