Feb. 5, 2013
THE FLATS – For the 16th consecutive year, Georgia Tech’s golf team opens its spring schedule on the Big Island of Hawai’i, competing against 19 other teams in the Amer Ari Invitational at the Waikoloa Resort Kings’ Course.
In the 15 previous trips to this event, the Yellow jackets have seen the tournament grow in stature to the point where this year’s 20-team field includes 10 teams ranked among the nation’s top 50 in the current Golfweek/Sagarin Index, including top-10 programs Texas (2), Washington (6), UCLA (7) and Southern California.
It is the first of two events in which the 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets will compete in a tournament with many West Coast teams. Following a trip to Puerto Rico later in February, Tech goes West again for the SHC Masters in Las Vegas in early March.
“We get to see a lot of West Coast teams and some of the reclamation projects that have been done out there like USC, UCLA, Stanford and Washington,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler, whose team won the event five times between 1998 and 2006, but has finished no higher than fourth since. “When we first started going out there 15 years ago, they were not the nationally-competitive programs that they are now. The tournament has grown with the same teams and now has grown every strong. So it makes this a great place to start our spring.”
Tech is hoping to build on a highly successful fall in which it won two events and finished second in another, gearing toward a run for a fifth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title in April and a spot in the NCAA Championship in May, which Tech will host at the Capital City Club-Crabapple in Alpharetta.
The Yellow Jackets were co-champions with California in the PING/Golfweek Preview Classic at Crabapple in September, and rallied from a sizeable deficit to win the United States Collegiate Championship over UCLA in October at The Golf Club of Georgia.
Heppler has put his team through a 108-hole qualifier as he traditionally does, and the travel team that emerged includes juniors Bo Andrews and Richard Werenski, sophomores Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans, and freshman Michael Hines. Shun Yat Hak, another freshman, will compete as an individual.
“We start over in the spring, no matter how well the guys played in the fall, giving everybody another chance,” said Heppler. “Seth Reeves got sick and wasn’t able to finish up, so he’ll get back for the next one. We’re looking forward to the event.
“There were some ups and downs in the fall. Richy played really well at the end to earn his spot, and Bo kept motoring along. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure in qualifying. Hopefully everybody grew from the experience. They dealt with some different conditions, weather-wise. But we do need those older guys to play better, for sure.”
Schniederjans, from Powder Springs, Ga., won the team qualifier following an outstanding fall season in which he earned two top-10 finishes in led the Yellow Jackets in stroke average (71.8). Ranked 34th nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index, shot six of his 12 rounds under par and posted a head-to-head winning percentage of 84.3.
Albertson (Woodstock, Ga.) finished in the top 20 in three of four events, posting a 72.1 average, while Andrews (Raleigh, N.C.) had a pair of top-10 showings and a 73.2 average. Werenski averaged 74.7 in nine rounds, while Hines posted a 73.0 norm in three tournaments. Hak played in two events, posting one top-20 finish.