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#STINGDAILY: One For The Thumb

April 22, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

No player on Georgia Tech’s roster was on the team the last time the Yellow Jackets failed to win the ACC title so coach Bruce Heppler has a pool of experience to draw from when Tech chases a ring for the thumb Friday-Sunday.

Sort of.

Tech will shoot for its fifth straight ACC title at The Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point in New London, N.C., yet two of the five players competing for the Jackets will be freshmen – Michael Hines and Shun Yat Hak – who have never competed there.

Redshirt junior Bo Andrews and sophomores Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson were on the ACC championship squad last year. They’ll fill out the travel team.

“That’s two guys that have never seen the place before. It’s become a young team where it could have been a very old team,” Heppler said while taking a break from the team’s practice on Monday. “That’s going to be fascinating.”

Well, that’s a word.

Among those staying in Atlanta this weekend: juniors Seth Reeves and Richy Werenski (who tied for 21st and tied for 7th in two previous ACC tourneys).

This is kind of a tough deal, right?

Why yes it is.

This has been an uneven year, though, and an especially up and down spring. The travel squad has churned as if in a blender beyond Schniederjens and Albertson, who have played in every event in the fall and the spring.

Rather than hold the usual 108-hole qualifying tournament ahead of the ACCs, Heppler looked at his players’ bodies of work dating back to the fall to choose the ACC roster.

“I don’t think we’ve played well, really, yet,” Heppler said of the Jackets’ spring. “We’ve played a lot of different lineups. Sometimes, continuity helps. I think everybody’s been on edge because at the end of the day they’re still fighting for their own spots.”

There is no more fighting.

The five players with the best stroke average (Schniederjans 71.8; Albertson 71.8; Andrews 72.6; Hines 73.4; Hak 73.5) are going to North Carolina, although that alone is not how Heppler picked the squad.

Actually, Reeves’ average of 73.5 ties Hak’s mark, and Reeves has played in 23 competitive rounds to Hak’s 16.

Hak, considered by many the top recruit in the nation last year, finished next-to-last in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas in early March, thanks to being disqualified in the final round for signing in incorrect scorecard.

He went 115-38 in Tech’s past two tournaments, heating up at the right time.

Reeves last fall tied for second in the prestigious PING/Golfweek Preview. He’s mostly scuffled since, however, and in the past two events – the Linger Longer and Gary Koch – he had a combined record of 65-88. Werenski is 43-110 in his past two events.

Some things are obvious in college golf, like Cal’s right to be ranked No. 1. The Bears are 149-3-1 (the tie was with Tech atop the PING/Golfweek Preview) overall, with nine wins in 11 events. The No. 7/9 Jackets, by the way, are 93-27-6.

Choosing the roster for the ACCs is not obvious.

“We just looked at the whole year, and head-to-head against each other,” Heppler said. “Golfstat has rankings and Golfweek does as well. Based on all the tournaments those are the guys who played the best. Both [rankings] had them in the same order except Michael and [Hak] were flipped.”

There’s nothing typical about what Heppler is doing.

“You don’t see Paul [Johnson] change starters a lot in football,” the coach said. “I think we had the same starting lineup in basketball virtually the entire season. That’s a lot of stress, a lot of pressure. Now, you settle in and go forward and not worry about the next one. In reality, those rankings are pretty much how we’ve gone every year.”

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