March 28, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
The bio of Chris Petefish carries the title of “freshman” on Georgia Tech’s roster, yet he doesn’t fit that profile anymore either in class or on golf courses.
Yes, he’s a first-year player for the Yellow Jackets, but the lean young man from Danville, Calif., by way of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Christian Academy has found home over the past few months to become one of Tech’s more consistent players.
Plus, he enrolled early and is now in his third semester on The Flats.
Petefish did not exactly light it up at the Valspar Collegiate Monday and Tuesday in tying for 32nd place at the Valspar Collegiate, but his rounds of 73-73-72-218 made him one of three Tech golfers whose scores counted in each round, and he finished second among Tech players behind senior Anders Albertson’s 72-70-69-211.
That was not a good outing for the Jackets, who are working to shed their 10th-place finish before the Mason Rudolph Invitational outside of Nashville Friday-Sunday.
Petefish will be in the mix again for Tech, competing with the team for the fifth time in the past six tournaments after failing to qualify for the first three fall events.
He’s become better at shedding.
“I did come early [to Tech], like seniors Ollie [Schniederjans] and Anders. I didn’t compete, but I got some classes under my belt and tried to learn the way things work. It was great,” he said. “When you’re out on the course, it’s just you so you’ve got to find a way to get it done.
“You have to be your best friend. I’ve gotten a lot better at just letting stuff go.”
The evolution of Petefish became noticeable to outsiders at the end of last fall.
After sitting out the first three tournaments, he played the last two — the United States Collegiate Championship and the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational, and helped.
After opening with a 77, he fired a 72 and his 68 paced the Jackets on the final day as they rallied to a seventh-place finish at the U.S.C.C.
In Hawai`i, he went 70-71-72 to tie for 29th among 84 golfers as Tech finished 15 strokes out in front.
“I played better at the end [of the ball], had a good low round the last of U.S.C.C., and played solid golf in Hawai’i,” Petefish recalled. “I’ve been working hard, some things are starting to come together. More swing mechanics. I needed a change to take the next step. I’ve seen some progress.”
Although he didn’t make the travel squad for the spring opener, the Puerto Rico Classic, Petefish tied for first place in the accompanying individual event at even-par as the Jackets finished second in the team competition.
When Tech finished fourth in the Seminole Invitational a few weeks ago without Schniederjans, Petefish and fellow freshman James Clark tied for ninth while Albertson tied for fourth.
At the Valspar, Petefish battled through a tough second round to remain relevant.
“At the start of the second round, I was on what you would say was an easy stretch of the course, 6-7-8. I missed a short putt for birdie on 6, and then I bogeyed 7, 8 and 9,” he said. “I was three over through four [holes] knowing that I’m going to have to start playing well.
“You have to find a way to get it together. I told myself to, `Stay patient. We can come back. We’ve done this before.’ I didn’t play particularly well, but I shot one-under par from that point.”
With his recent body of work, Petefish earned an exemption from qualifying for the Mason Rudolph from head coach Bruce Heppler. He, Albertson and Schniederjans already have travel spots.
As he works on his swing, Petefish is feeling better about himself and his game.
“I had a good junior career, and I can build from there, knowing I can do this,” he said. “I’ve definitely seen a difference in how I compose myself on a course compared to six months ago. That helps me stay more level headed.
“I was a little behind with my club to where my swing was relying more on timing; I’m working on having my club in front of me so that I can hit with more of my body and be more consistent. I’ve also gotten mentally stronger as well.”