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Tech Goes for Third Straight ACC Title

April 21, 2011

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Werenski hits approach to No. 16 during practice round

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech will attempt to win its third straight Atlantic Coast Conference Championship beginning Friday at the Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point in New London, N.C. The 54-hole event tees off each day at 8 a.m.

The Yellow Jackets has won or shared the title in four of the last five years, winning the last two titles outright, including a 13-shot victory over Virginia last year. Tech shared the 2006 and 2007 championships. Four of the five players who helped Tech win last year are in the starting lineup for the Jackets, who are coming off a 17-shot victory in last weekend’s Yellow Jacket Classic at the Golf Club of Georgia.

“They feel good about themselves,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “We hadn’t played a stroke play event since Las Vegas (March 11-13), so I think we got out of the event what we wanted to. Our guys player very well, and they’re excited about going up to Old North State and seeing what they can do.”

The Yellow Jackets are ranked No. 4 in this week’s Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, highest among teams in the ACC. Three Tech players are ranked among the nation’s top 25 – senior John-Tyler Griffin (11), senior Kyle Scott (14) and junior James White (17). They will form the Jackets’ starting five this weekend along with senior Paul Haley (ranked No. 75) and freshman Richard Werenski (No. 139).

The Yellow Jackets have won two events this year, capturing the United States Collegiate Championship at the end of the fall season by 27 shots over top-ranked UCLA and the Yellow Jacket Classic last weekend by 19 shots over UNC Wilmington. Tech has finished lower than fifth only twice in 10 events. Tech was a runner-up at the Puerto Rico Classic, third at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and fourth at both the Brickyard Collegiate and Amer Ari Invitational.

Tech went 3-1 and finished fifth at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship.

Three different Tech players have won a tournament this year, the first time that has happened since the 1992-93 season (David Duval, Stewart Cink, Jason Walters).

Tech’s 12 ACC men’s golf titles ranks second in conference history behind Wake Forest (18). Tech has won seven of its conference titles under current head coach Bruce Heppler, five of those outright (1999, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010) and two shared (2006, 2007). The Yellow Jackets won five championships (1985, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994) under previous head coach Puggy Blackmon.

Six of Tech’s ACC titles have occurred at the Old North State Club, the first occurring in 1999 by 10 strokes over North Carolina and Duke, which was and remains the Yellow Jackets’ largest margin of victory in the conference championship. Tech shared the 2006 title with North Carolina, and the 2007 crown with Virginia Tech.

“They’ve got great greens with a lot of speed to them, which they also have at the Golf Club of Georgia,” said Heppler, explaining the similarities between the ACC championship venue and the Yellow Jackets’ home course. “The Bermuda grass, which has been dormant all winter, is coming out now. So the grasses on the two courses are very similar. Once one group has some success there, they share it with the next group, and that breeds a mindset that you should play well there.

“It comes down to a little bit of a putting contest. If you look at the scores the last few years, they’re very low. You must make some putts and play the par 5s well, and we can do those things.”

Georgia Tech’s individual ACC Champions include Bob McDonnell in 1985, David Duval in 1991 and 1993, Mikko Rantanen in 1994, Bryce Molder in 2000, Cameron Tringale in 2006 and Chesson Hadley in 2010.

TECH UPDATE – Georgia Tech, ranked fourth in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and No. 5 in the Golfstat rankings, will field the same five players for this week’s ACC Championship that it has used in seven of its eight team events this year.

The five members of Tech’s starting five each has at least two top-10 finishes this year, and the fivesome has combined for 21 top-10s and six other top-20s. Tech has a 25-20 head-to-head record this year against teams ranked in the nation’s top 25 and a 52-23-1 against teams in the top 50, and its strength of schedule is ranked No. 10.

Griffin (71.3), White (71.7) and Scott (71.8) each rank among the ACC’s top 10 in stroke average and are a collective 1-under-par in 72 total rounds. Add in Haley (73.1) and Werenski (73.8), and the quintet is a combined 2-over-par in 121 rounds.

The Yellow Jackets’ average drop (non-counting) score is 75.23, the best figure in the nation.

NEXT UP – The NCAA will announce on May 9 the fields for its six regional championship tournaments, which will take place the weekend of May 19-21. The 2011 sites are Tucson, Ariz., Erie, Colo., Ocala, Fla., Zionsville, Ind., Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Blacksburg, Va. The top five finishers in those events advance to the NCAA Championship, May 31-June 5 in Stillwater, Okla.

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