Oct. 18, 2011
By Jon Cooper
It was no coincidence that the first thing anyone saw when walking through the door of the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta Tuesday morning was the U.S. Collegiate Championship trophy.
The trophy is currently in Georgia Tech’s possession — it will be up for grabs again beginning on Sunday — and serves as the most recent reminder of the winning tradition of Georgia Tech golf.
Others reminders could be found all over the Club, which hosted The Ramblin’ Wreck Cup, the program’s annual fundraiser. This year’s event was a who’s who of Tech’s galaxy of star alumni, ranging from PGA Tour winners Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder to up-and-comers Cameron Tringale, Roberto Castro, and Troy Matteson, to those on their way, like recent grad John-Tyler Griffin. The current Yellow Jackets team also was present and was part of a promotion that guaranteed each donor the opportunity to play a round with a past or present player.
It was a perfect day for golf and for Georgia Tech golf.
“It’s nice to see everybody,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “A lot of these guys that are playing professionally benefited from the fundraising that was done when they were here. So they’re excited to be here and give back and contribute and help us out. So it’s going to be a great day.”
Heppler’s wish to bring back some of the storied past was answered in grand style.
“He’s done a good job of creating a lot of pride in the program so it was easy for us when he said, ‘Hey, let’s try to get as many guys back together,'” said Bryce Molder, who recently won his first PGA Tour event at the Frys.com Open. “We made sure it worked.”
Most of the players have events this weekend, but all put their plans on hold to come back to Atlanta for the event. Cink, who has a rare weekend off couldn’t say no to the event.
“I’m not playing in a tournament this week but this is a busy week for me, too. I’ve got a big event going this weekend,” he said. “There aren’t many organizations I would say ‘Yes’ to this week. Georgia Tech is one of them.”
Alumni Roberto Castro and Cameron Tringale found time even though both have tournaments this weekend. For all of the alumni, the opportunity to give back to the program made attendance Tuesday a priority.
‘I feel blessed to be a part of the Georgia Tech golf world and to come back as an alum I appreciate what this program is about more now than when I was here,” said Tringale, who was on his way to Orlando for a tournament. “That’s part of why this program is so special. We have so many guys that care enough to come back and support the team.”
“It’s a no-brainer for us,” said Castro, who is on his way to Jacksonville for a Nationwide event. “It didn’t take much and just about everybody’s here. Give it a couple of years, you’ll see 100 percent attendance.”
That would make for quite a field considering the numerous Tech alumni already on the Tour and those currently in the program who are on their way.
“I don’t know how many schools get this many Tour players back,” said J.T. Griffin, who graduated last year and is about to embark on his pro career, beginning “Q School,” the first step in getting a PGA Tour card. “For [Tringale and Castro] to take a Tuesday out of their schedule is pretty special. I don’t know how many places you have do that.”
Then, again, not many places can boast Tech’s tradition.
“It’s nice to see the guys, that are establishing themselves out on the PGA Tour, Kuchar, and some of the other Tech players, Bryce Molder, he just won,” said Cink. “Also some of the players that are going to be there down the road. Everybody’s at different levels, but one thing about the Tech team, they always produce quality players that last a long time.”
Cink and all of the alumni recalled memories of participating in past Ramblin’ Wreck Cups and were glad for the chance to give back.
“It’s great for the culture,” said Castro. “Cameron and Chesson [Hadley] had dinner with the whole team and that kind of stuff is so big for the program because it builds a strong culture. Those young guys that are on the team see how these guys act and how they carry themselves. It was the same way for me. Troy Matteson was around a lot and getting to hang out with Stewart Cink when I was in college, it’s like, ‘Okay, this is how a Georgia Tech guy carries himself.’ It just builds a lot of culture.”
The current crop of players was eager to continue learning from the pros.
“I get to pick their brain a little bit and see how they dealt with the transition from here to professional golf and talk to them a little bit,” said senior James White. “Hopefully learn some things to help me out.”
“That’s one of the benefits of going to a great place like Georgia Tech,” agreed freshman Anders Albertson. “You have the history and all the alumni who have been very successful and that’s a resource you can use. Just kind of talk to them and see how they’re doing and what things they’re doing to get better.”
Heppler, who kicked off the event with a short speech in which he went out of his way to thank the donors, the alumni and assistant coach Christian Newton, made it a point to greet every participant at the door, conveniently meeting most as they stood next to the U.S. Collegiate Trophy. He was thrilled by the turnout.
“It makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing when they’re here,” he, said. “If they’ve had a bad experience or you didn’t treat them the right way they wouldn’t go out of their way to do this. So it’s a bit of an affirmation that what we’re doing while they’re here is the right stuff.”
He drew the line at showing his stuff on the course, however.
“No, no, no, no,” he said and laughed. “I’m passed that. I’ll just say ‘hello’ to everybody and make sure that everybody is happy and having a great day.”