Fayetteville, Ark. – Tyler Strafaci shot a 3-over-par 75 Friday afternoon to pace Georgia Tech, and the 7th-ranked Yellow Jackets posted a score of 307 (+19) to tie for 17th place after the opening round of the NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Championship.
On a golf course which was expected to be difficult, compounded by winds averaging 15-20 miles per hour Friday, the Yellow Jackets find themselves 17 strokes off the lead of top-seeded Oklahoma State, which negotiated the par-72 Blessings Golf Club in 290 strokes, two over par on the 7,550-yard layout.
Tech is paired again for the second round of the 72-hole stroke-play portion of the championship with No. 8 Duke (which posted a 25-over-par total of 313) and No. 9 Southern California (16-over-par 304), teeing off at 8:45 a.m. Saturday. Pairings for the final two rounds Sunday and Monday will be based on team score.
The NCAA Championship field includes 30 teams, with Oklahoma State competing at the top seed. The field will be cut to 15 teams for the final round of stroke play Monday, after which the individual champion will be crowned. The top eight teams will advance to the match play bracket, which will determine the team champion. Quarterfinal and semifinal matches take place Tuesday, May 28, followed by the championship match Wednesday, May 29.
Golf Channel will televise the final round of stroke play Monday and the entire match play championship.
Coach Heppler audio
Tyler Strafaci audio
Sophomore Noah Norton
TECH LINEUP – Strafaci, who did not count for the Yellow Jackets in any of their rounds at the NCAA Pullman Regional, played the front nine (Tech’s second nine Friday) 1-under-par, and his last five holes 2-under-par to finish with a 75 and claim low Jacket honors. The junior from Davie, Fla., produced three of Tech’s six birdies in the round.
Noah Norton (sophomore, Chico, Calif.) carded a 76 with no birdies, while Andy Ogletree (junior, Little Rock, Miss.) shot 77 and Luke Schniederjans (junior, Powder Springs, Ga.) added a 79 for the other Yellow Jackets’ counting scores. Freshman Connor Howe (Ogden, Utah) struggled to an 80.
One of the nation’s leaders in birdies all year, Georgia Tech was last in the field Friday in that category. California and Auburn, who are tied for third place, led the day with 19 each, while the Cowboys recorded 18.
TEAM LEADERBOARD – Led by a 69 from Austin Eckroat, Oklahoma State has a one-stroke lead over No. 10 Stanford (291, +3), whose highest counting score was a 75. No. 12 California, led by Collin Morikawa’s 5-under-par 67, and No. 11 Auburn are tied for third place at 292 (+4). All four of those teams played in the afternoon wave.
No. 17 Texas A&M, the leader from the morning wave, and No. 3 Wake Forest are tied for fifth place at 296 (+8), followed by Ohio State at 297 (+9). No. 5 Texas (298, +10), No. 14 Georgia (299, +11) and No. 12 Clemson (300, +12) round out the top 10 on the team leaderboard.
No. 9 Southern California and No. 25 North Carolina are tied for 12th place at 304 (+16), while No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 15 South Carolina and No. 22 Liberty are tied for 14th at 305 (+17), just ahead of Georgia Tech.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – California’s Morikawa took a two-stroke lead with his opening 67, moving ahead of a trio of golfers including Eckroat, Chun An Yu of Arizona State and Kyler Dunkle of Utah, each of whom shot 69.
Isaiah Salinda of Stanford is alone in fifth place after posting a 2-under-par 70, and Southern Cal’s Justin Suh led a group of six golfers tied for sixth place at 1-under-par 71.
Only 11 golfers broke par Friday, with nine more at even par 72. The average score Friday was 77.03.
Junior Luke Schniederjans
HEAD COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAYS – “You get three or four over, and you might get uncomfortable because you haven’t been there. We actually got off to a horrible start, and then really fought for about 10 holes, then on the last four or five holes, we didn’t quite get it in the house, or we would have had a pretty good day. We need to come out tomorrow and see if we can shoot the low round of the day and get ourselves back in the tournament. It looks like some of the teams that played well today started over there on the front.”
TYLER STRAFACI SAYS – “Today was good just to kind of get back in that mindset. Noah and Connor didn’t have a birdie today, and they’ve been averaging four or five a round this year. This was a good kick in the face, we know what to expect for the next three rounds. To get to match play, you’re going to have to make some birdies.”
TECH’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY – Georgia Tech has reached the NCAA Championship finals for the 29th time since 1985 (30th time in program history), which is tied for fifth most in that time period behind Oklahoma State (34), Arizona State (32), Florida (31) and Texas (31). Tech has posted nine top-8 finishes in the last 14 tries.
The Yellow Jackets tied for 10th in 2009, the first-year of the stroke-play/match-play format, but qualified for match play each of the next four times they advanced to the NCAA Championship (third in 2010, second in 2011, second in 2013, fifth in 2014). Tech did not advance out of its regional in 2012, 2016, 2017 or 2018.
Tech lost to the eventual champion three times in its four forays into match play – Augusta State by the score of 3-2 in the quarterfinals in 2010 and 2011 and to Alabama (3-0-2) in 2013.
Tech has been the runner-up in the NCAA Championship four times (1993, 2000, 2002 and 2005, all before the advent of match play), more than any team in the history of the championship except Houston, Michigan, Texas and Wake Forest, who also have four, and Oklahoma State, which has five.
Since Bruce Heppler became Tech’s coach, the Jackets have finished in the top eight 11 times.
Three Tech players have won national collegiate championships. Troy Matteson did it most recently in 2002 at Ohio State. Watts Gunn (1927) and Charlie Yates (1934) won national titles under a match play format before the NCAA took sponsorship of the championship in 1939.
Junior Andy Ogletree
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – The NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship field includes 30 teams, with Oklahoma State competing as the top seed. The championship is being contested at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., which plays to a par of 72 (36-36) and measures 7,550 yards (3,673-3,877).
Finals play consists of 72 holes of stroke play – May 24 thru Sunday, May 26 (54 holes), after which the top 15 teams and nine individuals not on an advancing team will be determined. That is followed by a final day of 18 holes of stroke play on Monday, May 27 to determine the top eight teams that will advance to match play as well as the 72-hole individual champion. The team national champion will be determined by a match-play format that will consist of quarterfinals and semifinals conducted on Tuesday, May 28, followed by finals on Wednesday, May 29.
GOLF Channel will provide extensive coverage of the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships. Live coverage begins on Monday, May 27 from 3-7 p.m. featuring the final round of stroke play and the awarding of the individual medalist honors. Coverage continues on Tuesday, May 28, from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. with the quarterfinals of match play and returns for the match play semifinals from 3-7 p.m. Coverage culminates with the championship match on Wednesday, May 29 from 3-7 p.m. (All times are CT).
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (All times local – Central)
Saturday, May 25
- 6:50 a.m. – Second round of stroke play competition (Georgia Tech at 8:45 a.m.)
Sunday, May 26
- 6:50 a.m. – Third round of stroke play competition
Monday, May 27
- 11 a.m. – Tee times begin for final round of stroke play competition
- 3-7 p.m. – Live coverage on GOLF Channel
- 7:30 p.m. – Individual awards ceremony
- 7:45 p.m. – Quarterfinal Match Play pairings determined
Tuesday, May 28
- 7 a.m. – Match #1 and #2 begin (1st and 10th tees)
- 7:50 a.m. – Match #3 and #4 begin (1st and 10th tees)
- 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Live coverage (quarterfinals) on GOLF Channel
- 1:30 p.m. – Match #5 begins (winners of match #1 and #2)
- 2:20 p.m. – Match #6 begins (winners of match #3 and #4)
- 3-7 p.m. – Live coverage (semifinals) on GOLF Channel
- 7:30 p.m. – Semifinalist awards ceremony
- 7:45 p.m. – Championship Match Play pairings determined
Wednesday, May 29
- 2:25 p.m. – Championship Match begins (winner Match #5 vs. winner of Match #6)
- 3-7 p.m. – Live coverage (finals) on GOLF Channel
- Following Play – Awards ceremony