July 26, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
In a summer of solid stories about Georgia Tech golfers past and present, the latest may be the greatest even if head coach Bruce Heppler thought ahead of time that it was maybe, sort of a lousy idea. It may have even been a bit defiant.
On Tuesday, Anders Albertson, Seth Reeves and Ollie Schniederjans all qualified for next month’s U.S. Amateur Championship by finishing first, second and tied for third, respectively, in their sectional at a course with which they are infinitely familiar – the Capital City Club’s Crabapple course in Milton.
That’s a ridiculously big, absurdly unlikely deal.
Golfers from one team (not playing in a team format) finishing 1-2-3 among a strong and large field of 132 golfers to grab 60 percent of the five spots available out of that sectional? What are the odds of that happening?
“That was arguably the most difficult site in the country,” Heppler said by phone Thursday from the West coast, where he is recruiting. “That’s good stuff right there.”
Making this all the more amazing: golfers are allowed to choose where they want to play; they do not need to stay local. For these three, it was an easy choice.
Albertson, who won with scores of 66-67 (133, -7), Reeves 66-69 (135) and Schniderjans 68-70 (138) love Crabapple, and not just because they’ve played there so much.
They’ve also played well there.
The Jackets finished second to No. 1 Cal at Crabapple in the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships. Then, they lost in the semifinals of match play to eventual national champion Alabama. Last fall at Crabapple, they tied Cal for the PING/Golfweek Preview title over that very track. Reeves tied for second in that.
As his coach said, “Seth thinks the place is his playground. There’s some sense [to playing a preferred course]. You could argue it back and forth. They’re probably real comfortable, and were encouraging each other.”
While the Jackets know the place like the back of their golf bags, playing there meant competing against one another rather than with one another.
As Heppler said the field also was stocked otherwise so it’s not hard to understand how a coach might think that was a sour idea. Rising senior Bo Andrews qualified for the U.S. Am last week out of a regional in Midlothian, Va., after all, and there are 64 sites around the nation where golfers can give it a whirl.
“Apparently, that’s what coach thought,” Reeves said of the idea of fanning out. “I don’t think he was exactly pleased that all three of us were trying to get in at the same spot with a lot of good players and a huge field. For me, we all know that course so well, so why not?
“I didn’t really think anything of it with Anders and Ollie being there. We certainly didn’t talk about it while we were out there playing.”
For the record, Heppler’s not saying that the trio should have played elsewhere. “I’m not saying that,” he said. “I don’t want those guys thinking I didn’t think they could do it.”
Albertson, Reeves and Schniederjans didn’t see each other at all during Monday’s round; they were playing at different times and on different halves of the course.
Tuesday, Albertson and Reeves were in the last group. Schniderjans just missed that opportunity. He was playing in the group ahead.
“I had an idea what was going on, and I knew the last two holes I was seven-under and had a two-shot lead on Seth … I knew I was probably in but I never let up,” Alberson said. “I was happy that I was able to do that with myself because you never want to think it’s in the bag; that’s not how you want to go about it.
“I knew Seth was in because when we turned in our scorecards he was at five-under and they had an iPad with all the scores. I didn’t know about Ollie … until right after scorecards.
Ollie’s mom and caddy … were all kind of standing behind the scoring area on 18, and Ollie was waiting for Seth and I to finish up our cards. We just kind of hung out, and congratulated each other.”
In the end, the plan worked exquisitely.
Albertson said that he and his teammates will almost surely play a practice round before the U.S. Amateur at the Country Club Aug. 12-18 in Brookline, Mass., “as a foursome.” The tournament will be right before the Tech school year begins.
Tech teammates Richard Werenski and Michael Hines try qualifying Monday.
“There were plenty of good golfers [at CCCC] and other players who know the course, but . . . that’s getting it done,” Heppler said. “I’m excited for them. That will be a great way to start the school year.
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