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Tai Leads, Tech in 4th at NCAA Championship

Carlsbad, Calif.Hiroshi Tai fired a 5-under-par 67 to take the opening-round lead, and Georgia Tech posted a 4-over-par 292 total Friday to grab fourth place after the first 18 holes of the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship at the Omni LaCosta Resort and Spa.

Tai birdied seven holes over the par-72 North Course Friday, including five in a six-hole stretch in the middle of his round, and his birdie at the finishing ninth hole gave the Tech sophomore from Singapore the lead to himself after 18 holes. Meanwhile, senior Christo Lamprecht shot 2-under-par 70 and is tied for fifth place. The 13th-seeded Yellow Jackets sit just two strokes off the pace set by Virginia and Arizona, each of whom posted 2-over-par rounds of 290.

“We all know the course is really tough, you have to hit good tee shots to good spots and there are hazards that come into play on different holes,” said Tai. “We figured out yesterday what holes we could try and be more aggressive and which holes that par is good on those holes. I pretty much stuck with it all day and didn’t change.”

Round 2 gets underway at 9:40 a.m. EDT Saturday morning, with Tech teeing off at 11:30 a.m. (1st hole), again paired with No. 14 seed East Tennessee State and No. 15 seed California. Tee times and pairings for the remaining rounds of stroke play will be determined by team position on the leaderboard.

Thirty teams will play 54 holes Friday through Sunday, with the field cut to 15 teams for the final round of stroke play Monday, after which the individual champion will be crowned. The top eight teams after 72 holes will advance to a match play bracket to determine the team champion.

 

Highlights from round 1 at NCAA Championship

TECH LINEUP – Tech took advantage of playing a par-5 to start its round, with Tai, Kale Fontenot and Bartley Forrester all making birdie at the 10th hole to position the Yellow Jackets near the top from the start. The Jackets wound up 6-under-par on the par-5 holes Friday, tied with Auburn and Ohio State for the best of the day, and accumulated 15 birdies, one shy of the high for the field.

Tai found a groove as he came to the finishing holes on the back nine, posting birdies at 17, 18, 1, 2 and 4 to move to the top of the leaderboard.

“I put a good swing on the tee shots and put myself in good spots in the fairway,” he explained. “I had wedge shots on 17,1, 2 and 4 and hit those pretty good, so it worked out nicely.”

After ending the run with a bogey at the fifth hole, Tai held onto a share of the lead with some stellar short-game play, getting up and down from off the green to save par at 6, 7 and 8. At the ninth, he put his tee shot in the center of the fairway, knocked his approach to within three feet and made the birdie to take the lead alone.

“Try to treat every shot the same, but it was definitely nerve-wracking,” added Tai. “The rough is kind of difficult around the greens especially. Up and down on 6, 7, and 8 were really nice. Hit really good chips to give myself relatively short putts for par.”

After a double-bogey in his third hole, Lamprecht (Senior/George, South Africa) kept the Jackets close to the lead with five birdies the rest of the way, three of them on a clean front nine to finish with a 70 and tie for fifth place, five shots behind Tai.

Tech also counted a 77 from Forrester (Senior/Gainesville, Ga.) and a 78 from Fontenot (Freshman/Lafayette, La.) on Friday, tossing out a 79 from freshman Carson Kim, playing his first NCAA Championship less than 90 minutes from his home town of Yorba Linda.

 

Hiroshi Tai post-round interview

TEAM LEADERBOARD – Arizona and Virginia are atop the team leaderboard after the first round even though the North Course at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa (7,538 yards/par 72) proved hard to solve, with all 30 teams posting above par scores after the first 18 holes of play.

Arizona and Virginia came in at 2-over-par 290, with North Carolina in third place at 3-over 291. taking advantage of playing in the afternoon after the course was dampened by morning showers. Georgia Tech (292, +4), Illinois and Auburn (each at 293, +5) also played in the afternoon and beat the top score from the morning wave, a 6-over-par 294 from Ohio State.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – Individuals fared better on Friday, with 12 players posting under-par scores, led by Georgia Tech’s Tai. He birdied his closing ninth hole (started on the back nine) to earn sole possession of the lead by one stroke over Ohio State’s Adam Wallin.

Wallin carded the best round of the morning wave with a 4-under 68. Wallin, who started on the 10th tee and began his round with back-to-back birdies, played his first nine holes at 3-under 33. He climbed to as high as 5-under with a birdie on 8 before closing with a bogey on 9.

Stanford senior Karl Vilips and Florida senior John DuBois are both two shots back of Tai, posting 3-under-par 69s over the first 18 holes. Lamprecht, Baylor’s Johnny Keefer and Arizona’s Tiger Christensen are three back after posting 70s.

 

TECH’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

Georgia Tech made the 54-hole cut in each of the last three NCAA Championships, and last year advanced to match play where the Yellow Jackets defeated Pepperdine and North Carolina before losing to Florida in the championship match. In stroke play, Tech finished 15th in 2021, 12th in 2022 and second in 2023 in stroke-play competition.

Lamprecht finished 44th, 32nd and 40th in his three trips around Grayhawk, while Forrester placed 75th, 15th and 55th. Tai is the only other Yellow Jacket with NCAA Championship experience, tying for 58th as a freshman last year.

Tech has reached the NCAA Championship finals 32 times since 1985 (33 times in program history), which is the fifth most in that time period behind Oklahoma State (37), Arizona State (35), Florida (35) and Texas (35).

The Yellow Jackets have qualified for match play five times since the advent of the stroke-play/match-play format in 2009, finishing third in stroke play in 2010, second in 2011, second in 2013, fifth in 2014 and tied for fifth in 2023.

Tech has been the runner-up in the NCAA Championship five times (1993, 2000, 2002 and 2005 before the introduction of match play, and again in 2023). Only Oklahoma State, which has 18, and Texas (6) have more.

TOURNAMENT INFORMATION

The top five teams and the top individual not on those teams from each of the six regional sites (30 total teams plus six individuals, 156 competitors in all) advanced to compete at the finals which will be held May 24-29 at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. The championships are being hosted by the University of Texas at Austin.

Finals play consists of three days of stroke play on Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26 (54 holes), after which the top 15 teams and nine individuals not on an advancing team will be determined. That is followed by a final day of 18 holes of stroke play on Monday, May 27 to determine the top eight teams that will advance to match play as well as the 72-hole individual champion. The team national champion will be determined by a match-play format that will consist of quarterfinals and semifinals conducted on Tuesday, May 28, followed by finals on Wednesday, May 29.

Golf Channel will air live coverage of the NCAA Championship, beginning with Monday’s final round of stroke play and continuing through the entire match play bracket.

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

  • Saturday, May 25 – Stroke play round 2, 9:40 a.m. EDT
  • Sunday, May 26 – Stroke play round 3, 9:40 a.m. EDT
  • Monday, May 27 – Stroke play round 4, 1 p.m. EDT
  • Tuesday, May 28 – Match play quarterfinals, 9:20 a.m. EDT
  • Tuesday, May 28 – Match play semifinals, 3:45 p.m. EDT
  • Wednesday, May 29 – Championship match, 4:35 p.m. EDT

 


Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of the development of Yellow Jackets that thrive academically at the Institute and compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.

ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF

Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 29th year under head coach Bruce Heppler, having won 72 tournaments in his tenure. Heppler is the 10th-longest-tenured head coach in Division I men’s golf. The Yellow Jackets have won 19 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 33 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up five times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GTGolf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.

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