May 12, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Bruce Heppler’s been at this a good long while, but he’s never done it this way: he’s splitting his travel squad on the way to NCAA Regionals next week.
In 15 previous seasons as Georgia Tech’s head golf coach, Heppler’s always packed his entire squad, himself and his assistant coach on the same plane for travel, but the team’s two freshmen – Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans – will not make the trip to Oklahoma Monday when the rest of the Yellow Jackets depart.
They’re going to stay behind, and Heppler will as well, for a pretty darned good reason: Schniederjans and Albertson are going to play in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at the Marietta Country Club. On Tuesday morning, they’ll head west.
Then, they’ll join Tech assistant Christian Newton and golfers James White, Bo Andrews and Richard Werenski and the Jackets will resume full squad preparation for the NCAA regional at University of Oklahoma. That is to begin Thursday after an official practice round Wednesday.
“I’ve never done it this way,” said Heppler, who will be taking his 15th straight squad to the NCAA regionals. “If we had gone to [the regional in] Athens, we would have all gone Tuesday, or if we had been sent to Greensboro, Tuesday. Christian will go with Bo, Richy and James on Monday and go play somewhere.
“With the time change, and perhaps a little different weather, it’ll be good for them to get acclimated.”
Those who happen to know there was a U.S. Open sectional qualifier Tuesday in Newnan might wonder: why not play that one?
Fair question. There’s a great answer available.
Schniederjans, who prepped at Harrison High in Cobb County, and Albertson, who graduated from nearby Etowah High, have played the Marietta Country Club scads of times. Familiarity with the course appeals.
“It’ll be a little different not having seven duffles and five golf bags checking in at the airport … but I don’t think come [NCAA] tournament time it’s going to affect how you’re going to play,” said Albertson, who earned All-ACC honors earlier this week.
“We played [Marietta Country Club] a lot in high school and growing up. I wouldn’t say it’s very similar [to Oklahoma State’s course]. The greens [at MCC] are smaller, there’s more undulation, and it’s not as long.”
Albertson can speak from comparative experience. He played at OU’s Jimmie Austin Golf Club a couple years ago in a U.S. Amateur Public Links tournament.
This week will be Schniederjans’ first trip around the track. He’ll concern himself with that when he gets out to Oklahoma. First, he’s going to give it a go in this U.S. Open local. He won the local qualifier that he entered last year, and then fell a stroke short of qualifying for the Open in sectional play.
“I’ve played [Marietta Country Club] many times. I’ve already qualified through there before,” he said. “Practice is going well. There is much more anxiety when school is in session.”
Who could possibly argue that?
“Today, we played 18, ate, and now we’re working on wedges,” Albertson said the other day. “It’s easier to fine-tune game now … just because you have more time. I love this part of the year; you get a lot done.”