Open mobile menu

Hiroshi Tai Wins NCAA Golf Championship

Carlsbad, Calif. – Georgia Tech sophomore Hiroshi Tai became the Yellow Jackets’ fourth national collegiate champion on Monday after carding a 1-under-par 71, and the Yellow Jackets shot a 4-over-par 292 as a team, qualifying for the match play portion of the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship for the second straight year.

Tech is in the match play bracket for the sixth time since the NCAA introduced the format in 2009, but this one came in the unlikeliest of ways after the Yellow Jackets lost their All-American Christo Lamprecht to a back injury after the opening round. The Jackets face top seed Illinois, which scored a 16-stroke victory in the team race, at 9:50 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday morning.

Tai, who was 6-under-par for the tournament and had a two-stroke lead, nearly saw his and his team’s hopes derailed when he put his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the next-to-last hole of the round, the par-3 8th, and made triple bogey. The development left him one shot behind individually at 3-under-par, and the Yellow Jackets dropped out of the top eight on the leaderboard.

Head coach Bruce Heppler’s team was not done yet, however. Tai got up and down on the last hole for par, and his teammates ahead of him made similar par-saving shots at the final two holes to keep the Jackets alive. Freshman Carson Kim (Yorba Linda, Calif.) chipped in for birdie at the 8th, the same hole Tai tripled, while senior Bartley Forrester (Gainesville, Ga.) and freshman Aidan Tran (Fresno, Calif.) escaped trouble at the final hole by also getting up and down from off the green.

Then Tai and his teammates waited for more than an hour to see where they would finish. Florida, the team which vanquished Tech in the championship match a year ago, played its final three holes 7-over-par, and Oklahoma had similar trouble finishing its round, both teams falling back and elevating the Yellow Jackets back in the top eight.

The players chasing Tai comprised some of the best players in college golf. Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, who assumed the lead when Tai stumbled, lost two shots over his last six holes. Other such as Florida State’s Luke Clanton, Virginia’s Ben James, Stanford’s Karl Vilips and Auburn’s Jackson Koivun, were unable to get the birdie they needed to win or tie. Sargent and James, playing in the final group of the round, both missed makeable birdie putts which would have forced a playoff.

“Means a lot to me (to win the title),” said Tai. “All the guys on the team have really helped me a lot in my past two and a half years here now. That includes not just the six guys here, but all the guys back home as well. They are the best friends of my life and I am really grateful for the relationships I have been able to make because of coach [Bruce Heppler] and him having me here.”

Tai joins Watts Gunn (1927), Charlie Yates (1934) and Troy Matteson (2002) as national collegiate champions from Georgia Tech.

The winner of the Tech-Illinois match will face the winner of the quarterfinal contest between No. 4 North Carolina and No. 5 Florida State in the semifinal round. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed Vanderbilt will take on No. 7 Ohio State, while No. 3 Virginia meets No. 6 Auburn, both matches starting at 10:40 a.m. EDT, with the winners facing each other in the other afternoon semifinal. Semifinal matches begin at 3:45 p.m. EDT.

Golf Channel’s live coverage of the quarterfinals begins at 1 p.m. EDT, and the semifinals at 6 p.m. EDT.

 

Hiroshi Tai reflects on winning 2024 NCAA Individual Championship

TECH LINEUP – Tai, who started the day three strokes back, played bogey-free golf for his first 16 holes Monday, making birdie at 10, 16, 1 and 2 to get to 6-under-par for the tournament before his triple-bogey at the eighth. That ended a string of 36 straight holes without a bogey dating back to late in Saturday’s round 2. His 72-hole total was 3-under-par 285.

“I didn’t know where I really stood on the individual leader board at the time; I knew once I was done,” said Tai. “I had [assistant coach Devin Stanton] with me most of the day and he kept telling me to focus on myself and do my best for the team and hope we make match play. I was pretty fired up after we figured out we were pretty safe. That’s the most I have been fired up in a while.”

Kim actually posted Tech’s best round on Monday, a 2-under-par 70 that included five birdies. He finished the championship tied for 53rd place at 299 (+11). Forrester turned in a 75, and Tran a 76 Monday to count for the Jackets.

Freshman Kale Fontenot (Lafayette, La.) shot 78 Monday, and finished tied for 67th individually along with Forrester at 302 (+14).

“Well you got to have more than five to start the year with, and Aidan Tran did a tremendous job (in place of Lamprecht for the last three rounds) – made some birdies on the back that counted today,” said Heppler. “We have just tried to have the mantra that we are going to send five guys out there every day to do the best they can. Really, really proud of them, this is a great group of guys.”

NOTES – Tai’s victory comes with perks; he will receive an exemption into the U.S. Open in three weeks, and an invitation to the 2025 Masters … Even though Christo Lamprecht did not compete the final three days of the NCAA Championship, he maintained his position at No. 2 in the PGA Tour University rankings and thus receives fully exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour for the rest of the 2024 season, as well as an exemption to Final Stage of 2024 PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry … Lamprecht’s career scoring average ended up at 70.05, which broke the program record of 70.69 set by Bryce Molder from 1997-01. His season average of 69.16 this year also broke Molder’s record of 69.43 set in 2000-01.

 

Coach Bruce Heppler and Hiroshi Tai talk after round 4

TEAM LEADERBOARD – Illinois, the leader by six strokes after the first three rounds, posted a 4-under-par 284 on Monday to earn the top-seed for team match play by 16 strokes over second-place Vanderbilt. Joining Illinois in team match play are the No. 2 through 8 seeds in order, Vanderbilt, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Auburn, Ohio State and Georgia Tech. Defending national champion Florida finished in 11th place. Illinois enters match play as the No. 1 seed for the second time in school history, also earning top seed in 2015.

INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – The list of players Tai fended off to win the title included 2022 champion Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt, Illinois’ Tyler Goecke, Florida State’s Luke Clanton, Auburn’s Jackson Koivun, the 2024 Ben Hogan Award recipient, Illinois’ Max Herendeen and Virginia’s Ben James, each of whom posted a 2-under-par score of 286.

Notre Dame’s Palmer Jackson, Stanford’s Karl Vilips and Ohio State’s Adam Wallin tied for eighth place at 287 (-1).

 

TECH’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

Only Oklahoma State (9 times), Texas (7) and Vanderbilt (7) have advanced to NCAA match play more than the Yellow Jackets’ six appearances. Tech is one of only three teams to make the 54-hole cut in each of the last four NCAA Championships (North Carolina and Vanderbilt are the others), and last year advanced to match play where the Yellow Jackets defeated Pepperdine and North Carolina before losing to Florida in the championship match.

The Yellow Jackets finished third in stroke play in 2010, second in 2011, second in 2013, fifth in 2014 and tied for fifth in 2023 before this year’s eighth-place finish.

Tech has reached the NCAA Championship finals 32 times since 1985 (33 times in program history), which is the fifth most in that time period behind Oklahoma State (37), Arizona State (35), Florida (35) and Texas (35).

Tech has been the runner-up in the NCAA Championship five times (1993, 2000, 2002 and 2005 before the introduction of match play, and again in 2023). Only Oklahoma State, which has 18, and Texas (6) have more.

 


Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of the development of Yellow Jackets that thrive academically at the Institute and compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.

ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF

Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 29th year under head coach Bruce Heppler, having won 72 tournaments in his tenure. Heppler is the 10th-longest-tenured head coach in Division I men’s golf. The Yellow Jackets have won 19 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 33 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up five times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GTGolf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.

RELATED HEADLINES

Men's Golf Georgia Tech #ProJackets Golf Report

News and notes from the Yellow Jackets in professional golf

Georgia Tech #ProJackets Golf Report
Men's Golf GALLERY: Georgia Tech at the NCAA Championship Finals

Scenes from Yellow Jackets at the NCAA Championship in Carlsbad, Calif.

GALLERY: Georgia Tech at the NCAA Championship Finals
Men's Golf Georgia Tech #ProJackets Golf Report

News and notes from the Yellow Jackets in professional golf

Georgia Tech #ProJackets Golf Report
Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Legends Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets