ATLANTA (April 19) – Georgia Tech’s No. 1-ranked golf team, led by all-America performers Matt Kuchar (Lake Mary, Fla.) and Bryce Molder (Conway, Ark.) are out to defend their Atlantic Coast Conference golf championship this weekend at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C.
The 54-hole event begins Friday with 18 holes at the 7,100-yard, par 72 facility, which is the site of the conference tournament for the fifth time in the last six years. The second round is scheduled for Saturday, with the final 18 holes Sunday.
Tech won last year’s championship by 10 shots over North Carolina, and the Yellow Jackets have won five conference titles since 1991. All told, Tech has won more ACC championships (six) than any school except Wake Forest and North Carolina despite having been in the conference only since 1979.
Tech has been ranked No. 1 for seven straight weeks in the Mastercard Collegiate Rankings, and also holds the top spot in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. The Yellow Jackets have won three of their four spring events, taking the Compaq U.S. Collegiate Championship by 14 shots over Clemson two weeks ago after trailing by 17 at the end of one round.
The Jackets opened the spring by winning the Waikoloa Intercollegiate by eight strokes and the San Juan Shootout by four. Tech finished tied for fourth, one shot out of a three-team playoff, at the Las Vegas Intercollegiate on Mar. 10-12.
“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t play well, because that is all that we can control,” said head coach Bruce Heppler, who will take the same five golfers to North Carolina that have played the last two events. “There may be a week when another team just plays better than we do, and that is certainly possible. But we won’t be disappointed if we feel like we’ve prepared and we’ve done our very best. The expectations are rising, and the way to evaluate our year is after the last round we play.
“This is the best year we’ve had on the golf course and in the classroom, and I’m proud of them no matter what happens from here on out.”
Kuchar, a senior who is Tech’s current stroke average leader at 70.25, is the nation’s No. 2-ranked individual in the Mastercard ratings, while Molder, a junior, is ranked No. 4 and has a 70.62 norm. They have finished in the top 20 of every event in which they have participated, and rank No. 1 and 2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in stroke average. Kuchar has finished 2nd, 3rd and 12th in his three ACC championships, while Molder has tied for fifth and tied for seventh in his two opportunities.
Kuchar, 1998 ACC Player of the Year, has returned to his top-level performance of two years ago, finishing in the top 10 in seven of eight tournaments this year. He and Molder were co-medalists at Waikoloa (6-under-par 208), and he tied for fourth at San Juan (4-under-par), tied for seventh at Las Vegas (5-under) and the U.S. Collegiate (5-under). Molder, the 1999 ACC Player of the Year, has finished in the top 10 in six events, including a tie for eighth at San Juan and a tie for 10th at the Compaq.
While the performances of Kuchar and Molder are expected, Tech can attribute its success this spring primarily to the elevation in play of its 3-4 duo of senior Carlton Forrester (Gainesville, Ga.) and freshman Troy Matteson (Austin Texas), as well as a solid performance from No. 5 man Matt Weibring (Plano, Texas).
“You hate to take credit away from Matt and Bryce, but our current string of success has to go to those other three guys,” said Heppler. “You can’t go to a tournament and not play well anymore. These kids have fought for it and earned it. If you get through our qualifying, you’re probably going to play well in the tournament. That has produced the more consistent success we’ve had.”
Matteson, who has four top-20 finishes in eight events and a 72.52 average, came on strong at Las Vegas, opening with a 67 and finishing in a tie for 17th at 3-under-par 213. Next time out at the U.S. Collegiate, he set a course record 64 in the second round and tied for fifth at 7-under-par 209 to pace the Jackets. Forrester, who has three top 20 finishes and a 72.75 average, posted his best score of the spring at the U.S. Collegiatge (4-under 212), which followed a 1-under 215 at Las Vegas.
Weibring, a sophomore, played No. 5 at Las Vegas and the U.S. Collegiate, finishing in a tie for 46th (220) and a tie for 14th (215), respectively, averaging 72.93 in five events.