Sept. 7, 2011
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, ranked No. 4 in the pre-season fall rankings by Golf World magazine, opens its 2011 fall campaign Friday at the 23rd annual Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga. The Yellow Jackets have won this event six times, but are looking for their first victory since 2001.
Head coach Bruce Heppler’s team is one of six teams from the nation’s top 25 in the Golf World poll that will compete in the 54-hole event, which runs through Sunday. The 12-team field includes Alabama (ranked No. 3), Auburn (9), Chattanooga, Clemson (16), Georgia (15), Kennesaw State (38), Middle Tennessee State, LSU (17), South Carolina (44), Tennessee (28) and Wake Forest (27).
Tech is coming off a banner year in which it won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship for the third straight year and for the fifth time in six years. The Yellow Jackets won two other events as well, and finished second in both the NCAA East Regional and the stroke-play portion of the NCAA Championship.
Two starters return from that team – first-team All-American James White, a senior from Acworth, Ga., and sophomore Richard Werenski from South Hadley, Mass., but neither will be on the travel squad for the Jackets this weekend.
That’s because a group of Tech’s up-and-comers prevailed in the team’s 99-hole qualifying tournament. Three sophomores, Bo Andrews, Drew Czuchry and Seth Reeves, and two freshmen, Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans, muscled their way into the starting lineup for the first tournament of the fall. Only Andrews has played in the Carpet Capital Collegiate before (a tie for 24th in 2009) and the group has played a combined 32 collegiate rounds.
“We had some guys work very, very hard this summer and had some successes that they hadn’t had before, so you would assume that they arrived with a lot more confidence and spring in their step,” said Heppler, who is beginning his 17th year coaching the Yellow Jackets. “The last couple years it has been a pretty closed shop due to the fact that probably at one time last year we had four of the top 50 amateurs on our team.
“The reality is through dark or dawn, they have had to play really well. Those five guys jumped in there and grabbed their spots. All five of them earned it and are enthused about getting on the road and continuing what some of them have done this summer. The idea behind qualifying is to make sure that those who are going are playing well and I think that we accomplished that.”
Czuchry, a native of Auburn, Ga., who played six events last year at Akron before transferring to Tech, has 17 of those rounds under his belt. Reeves, the Duluth, Ga., native who won the Grub Mart Collegiate last spring and the Southeastern Amateur this summer, has played nine collegiate rounds. Andrews, from Raleigh, N.C., played six rounds as a freshman in 2009-10 before red-shirting last year, and won the Greystone Invitational this summer.
Schniederjans and Albertson, both highly regarded junior players who enrolled at Tech last January, showed no fear in qualifying after combining for 10 top-25 finishes this summer in amateur events. Albertson, from Etowah High School in Woodstock, Ga., has four top-5 finishes in amateur events this summer, including a tie for first in a U.S. Amateur qualifier. Schniederjans, from Powder Springs, Ga., and Harrison High School, just missed qualifying for the U.S. Open and had four other top-20 showings.
“I think those amateur events are very representative of what college golf is like,” said Heppler. “The amateur events they play in are of an elite nature, so I think that translates just fine. The level of play needed to success in those amateur events is the same as that needed to play in the upper echelon college events. They’ve done that before.”
Four of the five 18-hole rounds were contested at East Lake Golf Club, which is nearing tournament-ready condition for the PGA’s Tour Championship later this month.
“We feel really good about the courses that we play,” Heppler said. “The grandstands are up and the hospitality areas are up. Even though there are no fans, you feel that’s a big time deal. The scoring for playing there at the golf club is tremendous.”
None of the players on Tech’s team were yet in high school the last time the Yellow Jackets won the Carpet Capital Collegiate. It began as a spring event in 1989 and moved to the fall in 1999, and it continues to attact many of the nation’s top teams. Among the individual winners of the tournament are current PGA stars Stewart Cink, Bryce Molder and Troy Matteson from Georgia Tech, as well as Lucas Glover, D.J. Trahan and Kyle Stanley from Clemson, Tim Clark of NC State and Bill Haas from Wake Forest.
Click here for tee times and results, as well as live scoring for the final two rounds.