THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s golf team, ranked No. 2 in the nation with a pair of stroke-play wins under its belt from the fall, opens the 2019 spring schedule with its annual trip to the Big Island of Hawai’i for the Amer Ari Intercollegiate at the Waikoloa Resort.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech is making its 21st appearance in the Amer Ari Intercollegiate, which has been the traditional spring opener for the Yellow Jackets every year since 1999, with one exception. The 28th annual event, which runs Thursday through Saturday, is a 54-hole, 5-count-4 stroke-play tournament played at the 7,074-yard, par 72 Kings Course at the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kona Coast of Hawai’i.
The Yellow Jackets have won this event five times, all between 2000 and 2007, and six Yellow Jackets have won or shared the individual title, including Matt Kuchar (shared title in 2000 and 2001), Carlton Forrester (shared title in 2000), Bryce Molder (shared title in 2001), Troy Matteson (2003) and Cameron Tringale (2007).
The 18-team field, which gets stronger each year, boasts six of the nation’s top 25 teams (No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Georgia Tech, No. 8 Southern California, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 14 Texas, No. 16 Auburn), and three other top-50 teams in Texas Tech (No. 29), Stanford (No. 31) and Oregon (No. 45). No. 55 San Jose State, No. 73 Colorado, No. 74 Utah, No. 75 Oregon State and No. 76 UC Davis also are competing.
TEAM UPDATE – The Yellow Jackets stand No. 2 in the nation in the Golfstat rankings and the Bushnell Coaches Poll, and No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index entering the spring season. Tech, favored to win the Atlantic Coast Conference once again, won the Maui Jim Intercollegiate and tied for first in the Carpet Capital Collegiate in the fall, and won both of its matches in the Jack Nicklaus Collegiate Invitational before finishing third in its own Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational.
Tech is 15-2-1 against current top-25 teams this year, 22-2-1 vs. top-50 teams, and 31-2-1 vs. top-100 teams, and its schedule is rated the ninth-most difficult in the nation according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.
Tech played a lot of impressive golf in the fall, leading the nation in average score (70.18), first-round scoring average (68.50), scoring on par 4s and par 5s, subpar strokes per round and fewest bogeys per round. The Jackets average drop score over six rounds is 74.39, best in the nation. Tech piled up 215 birdies in its nine stroke play rounds, which only ranks No. 60 because most teams ahead of it played four stroke-play events, rather than the three the Jackets played.
All five Yellow Jackets playing this week are ranked No. 138 or higher in the Golfstat rankings, while three of them – Junior Luke Schniederjans (No. 8), junior Tyler Strafaci (23) and sophomore Noah Norton (32) are listed among the top 40. Junjor Andy Ogletree is No. 134, and senior James Clark is No. 138. The five are ranked similarly in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, although Ogletree is significantly higher at No. 74.
TECH LINEUP – Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.), Strafaci (Davie, Fla.), Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Norton (Chico, Calif.) and Clark (Columbus, Ga.) are in the lineup for the Amer Ari Invitational, each having played in all four events in the fall. Freshman Connor Howe (Ogden, Utah) is competing as an individual, playing his fourth event.
Schniederjans finished in the top 10 of all three stroke play events in the fall, and earned an exemption into the Tech lineup this week as a results. Strafaci posted a pair of top-10 finishes in the fall, while Ogletree posted a tie for 16th and 12th, and Clark logged a pair of top-20 showings. Strafaci and Clark each won two matches at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational.
Four Yellow Jackets are under 71 in stroke average, led by Schniederjans at 68.78 and Strafaci ad 69.89. Norton averaged 70.22 over nine rounds, Ogletree at 70.75 over eight rounds, and Clark was not far behind at 71.33 over nine rounds. How averaged an even 71 in six rounds.
COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAYS – “One reason we keep going back is just weather. That side of the island gets about three inches of rain every year, so we’ve never had a problem playing the event. It really motivates our guys to work over the break and be ready to come back and qualify. It’s also a great reward for our guys who stay around and work hard. We’re not the only ones who feel that way, because the field is loaded, and it’s a great chance for us to have a measuring stick early in the season.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 24th year under head coach Bruce Heppler, having won 53 tournaments in his tenure. The Yellow Jackets have won 17 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 28 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up four times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GTGolf). For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.