Feb. 28, 2008
ATLANTA – Beginning a stretch of three tournaments against many of the nation’s top teams, Georgia Tech’s sixth-ranked golf team makes its annual trip to play in the Puerto Rico Classic, Friday through Sunday in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
The 15-team field for this event, played on the 6,902-yard, par-72 Rio Mar Country Club River Course, includes six of the nation’s top 20 teams and 13 of the top 50 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. In the field are defending champion and top-ranked Georgia, No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma State.
The Puerto Rico Classic is the first of three March events that continues next week with the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas, Nev., and the United States Collegiate Championship at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta. Both tournaments annually attract heavyweight fields; the USCC has nine of the nation’s top 11 in the Sagarin ratings.
“Reality is setting in for us, because the next three events are loaded with the best teams in college golf,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “It’s the most difficult part of our regular season, and we’re going to find out what kind of team we have. It will be a real indicator of how we’ve managed to replace (All-Americans) Roberto (Castro) and Kevin (Larsen), and how well we’ve brought the team along in their absence.”
Tech opened its spring season with a fourth-place finish at the UH-Hilo Invitational in early February, finishing behind Stanford (No. 7), Arizona State (No. 33) and Southern California (No. 8). All-Americans Cameron Tringale and Chesson Hadley both finished among the top 10 individuals, and both are on the travel roster for Puerto Rico along with juniors David Dragoo and Taylor Hall and red-shirt freshman Paul Haley.
It is the same lineup that Heppler took to open the fall at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, where the Jackets finished third, one shot out of a playoff.
Tringale, a junior from Laguna Niguel, Calif., has won both qualifying events for Tech’s spring tournaments and appears to be rounding into his All-America form after an inconsistent fall. He finished fourth at Hilo, three shots off the lead, and has a 71.33 scoring average for the year.
“It’s very positive that Cameron, who didn’t have the fall he wanted, won the first qualifying tournament and won this one by a significant margin,” said Heppler. “You’d expect now that he can start to play well consistently.”
Hadley, a sophomore from Raleigh, N.C., is working on streak of seven consecutive team-scoring, stroke-play events in which he has posted a top-10 individual finish. He tied for ninth at Hilo, won the Carpet Capital Collegiate, and leads the Jackets in stroke average at 70.08 over 15 rounds.
Hall, a junior from LaGrange, Ga., who failed to qualify for the Hilo tournament, put together an excellent fall season, averaging 72.89 strokes over nine rounds while posting a pair of top-20 finishes in stroke-play events. He then won all four of his matches in the Callaway Golf Collegiate Match Play Championship.
Dragoo, from Scottsdale, Ariz., has seen more action than in his first two years combined, averaging 73.67 over 12 rounds to date. He tied for 39th at Hilo and finished just outside the top 20 in two fall tournaments. Haley, from Dallas, Texas, also has played in four events with an identical stroke average.