Dublin, Ohio – Tyler Strafaci, James Clark and Ben Smith all scored individual match victories Tuesday morning, and No. 4 Georgia Tech defeated No. 22 South Carolina, 3-1-2, in a semifinal match at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Due to severe weather in the area that forced suspension of play Monday afternoon, the second-round matches (semifinals in the winner’s and loser’s brackets) were completed Tuesday morning and the final round of matches, including the championship match, were cancelled because of pre-determined travel arrangements for some of the teams. Thus, Tech was declared co-champion along with Clemson, which defeated Georgia, 4-2.
Strafaci, a junior from Davie, Fla., and Clark, a senior from Columbus, Ga., won both of their matches in the event, while Smith and Luke Schniederjans each went 1-1, and Andy Ogletree halved both of his matches. Freshman Connor Howe dropped both of his matches in the event.
With Tuesday’s win, Georgia Tech remained unbeaten this fall with an 28-0-1 overall record and a 10-0-1 mark against top-25 teams. The Yellow Jackets return to action Oct. 19-21 for its home tournament, the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational, which features the toughest field on the fall slate.
Semifinal: Georgia Tech d. South Carolina, 3-1-2 – Strafaci took his first lead in his match against Will Miles with a par on the par-4 fifth hole and maintained it through the end. He built his lead to as many as three holes with six to play and closed out the Gamecock senior on the 17th hole to win 2 and 1. Clark had no trouble with South Carolina freshman Ryan Hall, taking the lead on the second hole and building form there. He closed out Hall on the 15th hole despite a bogey to win 5 and 3.
Smith, a redshirt freshman from Novi, Mich., bounced back from a loss to Kent State to defeat Andrew Spiegler, 2 and 1, Tuesday morning. His birdie on the par-3 eighth hole gave him a lead he would not relinquish, and the freshman led by as many as three holes before closing out the South Carolina sophomore at 17.
For the second straight match, Ogletree came from behind to earn an important half-point for the Yellow Jackets. The junior from Little Rock, Miss., trailed South Carolina freshman Harry Corbin for most of the front nine, and had to pull even on five occasions on the back side, squaring the match on the final hole when Corbin double-bogeyed.
Schniederjans’ match was just the opposite. The Tech junior from Powder Springs, Ga., led for most of the front nine over Gamecock junior Scott Stevens, but Stevens came back from one-hole deficits three times on the back nine and held firm to finish the match all square.
Other matches – Clemson was declared co-champion with Tech after defeating Georgia, 4-2, as Turk Pettit, William Nottingham, Zack Gordon and Coleman Self captured individual victories. In the other second-round matches Tuesday, Stanford shut out Kent State, 6-0, with only one match reaching the final hole. Florida State downed Ohio State, 3-2-1.
COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAID – “The match play aspect aside, to go to iconic place like Muirfield that the guys see on TV, it’s phenomenal. Great players have won big events there. Outside of the majors, it is one of the most highly-regarfded golf courses the pros play. Our guys loved every minute of it. The golf course is really challenging and hard. The match play experience is important. Trying to close out matches is difficult. Things can change very quickly. It’s a great experience. Andy was down twice and got a half. James and Ty both went 2-0, so hopefully we learning something. I thought we played fine.:
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – The Jack Nicklaus Invitational comprises two days of match play between eight of the top college golf teams in the nation at Muirfield Village Golf Club (7,221 yards, par 72), the site of the annual PGA Tour Memorial Tournament. The field includes host Ohio State, No. 13 Clemson, Florida State, No. 10 Georgia, No. 4 Georgia Tech, Kent State, No. 22 South Carolina and No. 20 Stanford.
The original format called for each team to play three matches, with the first-round losers working through a consolation bracket. Each team had six players competing in singles matches against their counterparts, with each individual match victory counting one point for their team. The team that accumulated 3.5 points or more won the match. If the overall team match was tied at 3-3, the games committee will break the tie. It will not be settled on the course.