May 16, 2012
Norman, Okla. – Nine rounds of golf. That is the number of rounds a college team must play to win the national championship, and that journey begins Thursday for ninth-ranked Georgia Tech and 80 other teams in the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship.
The Yellow Jackets, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Southwest Regional, are paired with Texas, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, and 13th-ranked Washington for the first round of the NCAA Southwest Regional at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla. They tee off at 9 a.m. Eastern time Thursday. The 54-hole qualifier begins Thursday and runs through Saturday. Pairings are based on seedings the first two days, and by team score for Saturday’s final round.
The Southwest Regional is one of six being played around the country this weekend, and the top five teams in each regional will advance to the NCAA Championship finals May 29-June 3 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The Yellow Jackets have reached the match play portion of the championship each of the past two years, falling in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Augusta State.
Tech has advanced through an NCAA regional 20 times in 21 regional appearances going back to 1989, when the NCAA instituted the format (the Yellow Jackets did not receive bids in 1996 and 1997). Head coach Bruce Heppler’s Tech teams have won two regionals outright, in 1998 in Daufuskie Island, S.C., and 1999 in Providence, R.I., and shared the 2002 title with Clemson in Roswell, Ga.
The Yellow Jackets earned an automatic berth in the regional round by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship last month. No. 1-ranked Texas is the top seed in the 14-team field at Norman along with 13th-ranked Washington, No. 23 Florida State, No. 31 Oklahoma, (host), No. 36 Saint Mary’s, Calif. (West Coast Conference champion), No. 35 Illinois (Big Ten Conference Champion), No. 48 Middle Tennessee State, No. 49 South Carolina, San Diego, Arizona, Sacramento State (America Sky Men’s Golf Conference champion), IUPUI (Summit League champion) and Loyola-Chicago (Horizon League champion).
The Yellow Jackets head into the post-season having won twice this year, including the Brickyard Collegiate in the fall and the ACC Championship last month. Heppler was named the ACC Coach of the Year for the second straight year, and Anders Albertson, Bo Andrews and James White were named to the all-conference team, All five Tech players are ranked among the nation’s top 150 players by the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index -White (19), Albertson (26), Andrews (99), Richard Werenski (104) and Ollie Schniederjans (146).
In all, 81 teams and 45 individuals are completing this weekend for spots in the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship. The other five regional sites (with top seed in parentheses) are the University of Michigan Golf Course in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Southern California), the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga. (Alabama), The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky. (UCLA), Grandover Resort East Course in Greensboro, N.C. (Auburn), and the Stanford Golf Course in Stanford, Calif. (California).
The other three, Haley, John-Tyler Griffin and Kyle Scott, graduated less than a month after winning that championship. This year’s travel squad features a pair of freshmen, Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans, and sophomore Bo Andrews, who hails from Raleigh, N.C.
Head coach Bruce Heppler’s team has enjoyed a solid year, finishing fourth or higher in every event except one, including a pair of victories at the Brickyard Collegiate in the fall and the ACC Championship last month. This spring, the Yellow Jackets also have logged runner-up finishes at the Seminole Intercollegiate and the Gary Koch Invitational, while finishing fourth at the Amer Ari Invitational, the Puerto Rico Classic and the Barona Collegiate Cup.
The Yellow Jackets have a head-to-head winning percentage of 83.7 against the nation’s 9th-most difficult schedule.
White, who has finished out of the top 20 only once this year and has five top-5 performances, leads this Tech contingent with a 70.9 stroke average. The senior from Acworth, Ga., won the Byron Nelson Award this year and is ranked 19th nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings.
Albertson, a first-year player from Woodstock, Ga., ranks 26th nationally in the Sagarin ratings, has a 71.1 stroke average, seventh in the ACC, and has finished in the top 10 five times in 10 events. Andrews also has four top-10 finishes and a 72.2 average, while Werenski, from South Hadley, Mass., has a 72.1 average and two top-10s, and Schniederjans has an even 72.8 average and four top-20 showings (two top-10s).
Georgia Tech, ranked 9th in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and No. 12 in the Golfstat rankings, has formed its travel squad from among the same six players in each of its five events this spring. Odd man out for the post-season is sophomore Seth Reeves, who has a pair of top-10 finishes and a 72.4 stroke average.
The fivesome playing this week has 31 top-20 finishes between them, 21 top-10s and nine top-5s.
Four of Tech’s players rank among the nation’s top 104 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index – White is No. 19, Albertson is No. 26, Andrews is No. 99 and Werenski is No. 104. Schniederjans is No. 146. Reeves, who is not playing this week, is No. 114.
The Tech quintet playing this week is collectively 1-under-par over 144 competitive rounds of golf.
The Yellow Jackets’ average drop (non-counting) score is 75.89, the second-best figure in the nation behind third-ranked UCLA.
Tech is 13-2 head-to-head this year vs. teams in the Norman Regional, including a 1-1 mark against top-ranked Texas, 1-1 vs Washington, 4-1 vs. Florida State and 2-0 vs. Oklahoma.