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#STINGDAILY: The Roster Keeps Shuffling

March 21, 2013

Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –

Fresh Thursday after a zippy drive, Bruce Heppler sounded no signs of travel-induced indigestion. After recent trips to Hawai’i, Puerto Rico and Las Vegas, Georgia Tech’s golf coach wasn’t sweating a quick hop and skip to Greensboro, Ga., for the Linger Longer Invitational at Great Waters at Reynolds Plantation.

“This was a little easier,” he said.

The Yellow Jackets, however, continue to churn. Their roster turnover from tournament to tournament far surpasses most seasons.

Sophomores Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson have made all eight five-man travel squads and junior Seth Reeves has traveled seven times, dating back to the fall.

Yet Tech hasn’t yet sent out the same five golfers in consecutive tournaments. A different combination of golfers has emerged every time from the team’s grueling qualifiers – gauntlets which sometimes run up to 108 holes.

Schniederjans, Albertson, Reeves and freshman Michael Hines are back to represent in the Linger Longer on Saturday and Sunday. Junior Richy Werenski will swap in to fill to spot taken by freshman Shun Yat Hak in Vegas.

This instability could soon reach a point where – with the postseason in sight – the coach with four straight ACC titles under his name may soon develop a pit in his stomach.

Heppler would like his lineup to settle on the same five golfers, more for their peace of mind than his – which is, after all, largely dependent upon theirs.

The sport is mental enough as it is, and not knowing whether you’re going to play in an upcoming event doesn’t lead to a great frame of mind to prepare or even play once a starter sends ’em off.

“I’d like to get it done before the ACCs (April 26-28), but I’m pretty sure that it won’t be until then,” Heppler said. “Once a guy figures he’s in and he’s earned his way [into the lineup], can he relax and not worry so much? Golf is a game of consequences, and if one of the consequences is you coming out of the lineup . . . “

Many years, roster turnover is limited to the fifth spot alone and it is not uncommon for the lineup to barely change over the fall and spring seasons combined. This go round, however, two spots have been up for grabs just about every time out.

The only tournament Reeves missed was Hawai’i after he didn’t get to finish trying to qualify because he got sick.

“The plus is that we have a younger team and a lot of guys who haven’t played a lot are getting to play,” Heppler said. “It’s hard to get better if you’re not better playing.

“But the reason so many guys have played is so few have played well enough to secure their spot. We need some guys to play a little better. We’ve just got to get some guys 3, 4, 5 and 6 to solidify.”

The Jackets have the Linger Longer, the Gary Koch Invitational in Tampa (April 8-9) and dual matches against South Carolina (April 13 at East Lake) and TCU (April 19 at Capital City Club-Crabapple) before the ACCs. 

Heppler said the Jackets have always played the NCAA regionals and the NCAAs which this spring will be at CCC-Crabapple — with the same fivesome that goes to the ACCs .

When last the Jackets competed at CCC-Crabapple, by the way, Tech tied No. 1 Cal for the title last fall in the PING/Golfweek Preview and Reeves tied for second place.

Usually, the same fivesome competes together in the tournament prior to the ACCs as well. This year, those dual matches would hardly fit that bill because the format will differ from the typical team tournament like the ACC.

“Typically, the guys that go there play the next two [NCAA regionals and the NCAAs],” the coach said. “Basically, that’s what we’ve done. Maybe we’ll have qualifying after ACCs this year.”

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