Feb. 27, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Back on campus Wednesday, Bo Andrews had plenty to feel good about, and yet you might be surprised at what buoyed the Georgia Tech golfer’s spirits so much – Tuesday’s round by teammate Richard Werenski.
Read on to learn some of the essences of college golf, about a separating mechanism between good and great teams – selflessness.
Just a day removed from one of the best tournaments of his college golfing career, Andrews spent as much or more time talking about his classmate.
A third-place tie in the Puerto Rico Classic, where Andrews finished one stroke behind Clemson’s Miller Capps and Alabama’s Robby Shelton and tied with or ahead of the other 72 golfers, was worthy of considerable back-slapping.
He went 68-69-68 to shoot 11-under par 205.
Still it was the fifth-year senior’s teammate that had him talking. Werenski missed the first tournament of the spring — Hawai’is Amer Ari Invitational – and lagged his teammates in Puerto Rico after two rounds, shooting 78-73.
His 73 counted toward the team score, but while tied for 60th after two days, he had no shot at medaling or finishing in the top 10.
Werenski could’ve moped around the Rio Mar Country Club on Tuesday.
No. Richy didn’t roll that way.
He shot a course-record and personal-best 62 with 10 birdies and eight pars. That helped the No. 3 Yellow Jackets shave six strokes off the lead of No. 1 Alabama. The Jackets’ third-round total of 20-under-par 268 was fourth-best in school history as all five golfers fired rounds of 70 or better.
“We can look back now and say we have that [capability], and it’s nice to know because Alabama knows that we’re there if they didn’t before,” Andrews said. “Richy’s round was amazing, and inspiring.
“It’s amazing to get 10-under par in one round, and inspiring to be in that state of mind after not playing the best that he could [in the previous two rounds] and to come back out with a fresh slate. That’s really, really inspiring.”
The Crimson Tide hung onto to win (45-under-par 819 to 41-under 823), but in finishing second to the defending national champions and but four strokes in arrears of a team that played lights out, the Jackets served notice.
Tuesday’s round was one for the ages for Tech.
Beyond Werenski’s 62, Andrews and senior Seth Reeves shot 68s (with Reeves rallying after a 75 on Monday), and juniors Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans each shot 70. Imagine throwing out a 70 from the team score!
Of course Tech head coach Bruce Heppler was pleased with the way the Jackets played, especially after a somewhat uneven open in Hawai’i. That 268 was four strokes better than Alabama’s best round and hopefully a sign.
Golf remains an individual sport, and even in college team competition there are gains to be made on the individual level.
Werenski was not in that position after two rounds, but rather than go through the motions Tuesday because he could not win the tournament, he cleansed his thoughts and played for his teammates.
That, more than anything, made Heppler both happy and hopeful.
“He’s very hard on himself, and we’ve tried to work on this for four years — to just let it go and play. He struggles with patience with his game and with himself. It’s a battle for him to be positive,” Heppler said of Werenski. “You’d like to think they all get to the point where they think it’s about the team more than about them.
“What you want is a guy forgetting where he stands, and that for the next five hours it’s about helping the team.”
Werenski started on the fourth hole and opened with a par. He birdied Nos. 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 1.
Not a bad afternoon. Chances are that for the Jackets to start a new ACC winning streak and to again compete for an NCAA title, they’re going to need the resiliency that Werenski showed in rebounding to his amazing score.
He wasn’t alone in rebounding, remember, as Reeves went 75 Monday-68 Tuesday.
“You’re rarely going to have all five of them have their best stuff in the big events,” Heppler said. “It really comes down to a battle where a guy who doesn’t have their stuff realizes . . . `Hey, I got a chance to help my teammates.
“He wasn’t going to win the tournament . . . but you go out on the last day and try to help your team run down the No. 1 team in the country. It’s a lesson for all five of them that, `I’ve got to get over myself.’ I’m hoping he learned something and taught everybody else something; we win together and we lose together.”
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