Oct. 3, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
It wasn’t a long drive Wednesday, yet when the Georgia Tech golf team traveled to Macon for its next tournament it was a bit like a road trip back to another time.
The Yellow Jackets are off to a start with two tournament wins in as many tries, but the team ranked No. 2 nationally in the Golf World Coaches Poll will go up against a different opponent Friday-Sunday in the Brickyard Collegiate Golf Championship: the grass.
The Brickyard at Riverside is old school in some ways, which is to say long and layered with what Tech coach Bruce Heppler called, “the old Bermuda.”
With the same quintet that already teamed to win the Carpet Capital Collegiate and the and the Tar Heel Intercollegiate, Ollie Schniederjans, Seth Reeves, Richy Werenski, Anders Albertson and Bo Andrews will try to make it three-for-three over a course a good bit different than what they typically practice and play upon.
Golfers often need to bomb it off the tee over the 7,100-plus yard course. Sometimes, they’re going to need to drill their putts as well.
Fewer and fewer courses feature the older, grainy Bermuda and the Jackets are accustomed to putting on faster Bentgrass or newer, genetically-improvised strains of Bermuda that are slicker than what they’ll see this weekend.
“At times the greens run slow. If you get the speed right, you can make a ton of putts because the ball doesn’t run by if you miss. We’ll spend a lot of time lag putting [Thursday in practice],” Heppler said.
“The older Bermuda . . . is just really, really grainy. You’ve got to look where the grain is, where the sun sets. Depending on where you are on the green, it could be running 13 [on the Stimpmeter] in one direction, and 7.5 the other. Then, you’ll have some cross-grain as well.”
Much has gone well for the Jackets this fall.
They won the Carpet Capital Collegiate by six strokes as Schniederjans tied for medalist honors. They won the Tar Heel Intercollegiate by a whopping 20 strokes, and Reeves took medalist honors even though he’d been limited by a thumb injury in practice.
The Jackets finished 1-2-3-tie 4 in that event.
This will be a different deal, however, and freshman Vincent Whaley will complete Tech’s travel group although he will play as an individual with scores that will not count toward the team competition.
Conversely, sophomore Michael Hines, who played in seven of 12 events for the Jackets last season may sit this season out.
“Vince decided that he really didn’t want to redshirt, and he wants to try to play in the postseason and finish his academics in eight semesters,” Heppler said. “Michael has made a different decision. I don’t know that you’ll see him this year.
“I think he sees a lot of benefit to spreading his academics out. He’s a Zell Miller Scholar, and that requires a higher GPA so he’s looking at moving his academics to 10 semesters.”
Heppler has spoken before of the benefits of winning. When a player, or a team, has success, the likelihood is greater that they’ll play with that much more confidence.
Might there be a risk of over-confidence? The Brickyard, started by Tech graduate and Macon businessman Alfred Sams, hasn’t been kind to the Jackets.
“We’ve taken it more on the chin down there than given it out,” the coach said. “Their ambitions go so far beyond what goes on down there. To be an All-American, you’ve got to play well every week. You probably can get too overconfident.”
Tech’s run over the old Bermuda will be a tune-up of sorts. They’ll play the stuff a couple times in the second semester – in Hawai’i and Puerto Rico.
Plus, any chance to play Georgia and ACC rivals Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College is incentive aplenty. Host Mercer also will be joined by in-state programs Georgia State and Augusta State.
“There’s nothing wrong with learning how to do this. We’ll have three chances to play on it. It’s all about learning different conditions,” Heppler said. “This is about getting to be really aggressive. It’s a mindset where you don’t have to worry about it getting away from you [on the greens].
“It is certainly an adjustment. Some of our lowest scores have been in Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii on this stuff. If you make the adjustment fast enough, you can make some putts.”
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