Georgia Tech Golf Set for NCAA Stanford Regional

James Clark and assistant coach Drew McGee during the opening round of the ACC Championship.
May 14, 2017

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THE FLATS - Georgia Tech's 21st-ranked golf team begins its quest to reach the NCAA Men's Golf Championship finals for the 29th time in its history Monday when the Yellow Jackets begin competition in the NCAA Stanford Regional at the Stanford University Golf Course at Stanford, Calif. The 54-hole event, one of six qualifying tournaments being held around the nation concurrently, runs through Wednesday.

This is the third straight year that Tech will travel to the West Coast for its NCAA regional. The Jackets played last May in Tucson, Ariz., where they finished tied for seventh and failed to advance, and in San Diego in 2015.

TEAM UPDATE -- Georgia Tech enters NCAA regionals ranked No. 21 in the Golfstat rankings and No. 22 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index. Tech had risen as high as No. 20 and No. 19 in the respective ratings after the first five spring events, having finished second in three straight events leading into the ACC Championship, in which the Yellow Jackets tied for seventh place.

Tech's closest brush with victory came at the Valspar Collegiate Invitational against the toughest field it has faced this spring (10 top-50 teams), when the Yellow Jackets rallied on the final day to come within a shot of No. 9 Wake Forest. Tech tied for second with Florida State at the Seminole Intercollegiate the week before and second at the Clemson Invitational immediately before the ACC Championship.

Previously this spring, Tech tied for seventh place in a 21-team field at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawai'i and tied for for third among 15 teams at the Puerto Rico Classic. The Jackets' best finish in the fall was a fifth-place showing at the Carpet Capital Collegiate.

Tech has a 79-37-1 won-loss record cumulatively this year against a schedule rated the 13th-strongest in the country, according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Index (doesn't include Cypress Point match play event in the fall).

TECH LINEUP -- Head coach Bruce Heppler the Yellow Jackets' lineup for the post-season prior to the team competing in the Seminole Intercollegiate, going with a core of three freshmen in Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) in his starting five, joining senior Vincent Whaley (McKinney, Texas) and junior James Clark (Columbus, Ga.), for the last two events.

Schniederjans and Strafaci have both landed in the winner's circle this year, Strafaci most recently at the Valspar Collegiate, where he captured a one-shot victory and earned his third top-20 finish this spring. Schniederjans has won twice, including a one-shot win at the Puerto Rico Classic in February, and he tied for third at the Seminole Collegiate. Schniederjans ranks No. 2 on the team in stroke average at 72.07 and is ranked 103rd in the nation in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index. Strafaci creeped into the top 100 briefly after winning the Valspar (now No. 160) and has a 72.71 stroke average.

Clark, ranked No. 99, has developed into a solid middle-of-the-lineup player for the Yellow Jackets this spring, finishing eighth, 17th and third in Tech's last three events and compiling a team-best 72.00 stroke average. He tied for third at Clemson and led for a portion of the final round. Whaley returned to the lineup after a long absence at the Seminole Intercollegiate and tied for 20th place, shot a final-round 70 to help the Jackets' final-round rally at the Valspar and tied for 11th at Clemson. Ogletree has three top-20 finishes this year and a 72.89 stroke average.

REGIONAL TOURNAMENT INFORMATION -- The Yellow Jackets, the No. 4 seed at Stanford, are playing in an NCAA regional for the 20th straight year and for the 27th time in the 29 years the NCAA has used a regional qualifying format for its championship. They are part of a regional field that includes 13 teams and 10 individuals.

The Stanford Regional will play host to eight teams listed among the nation's top 50 of the Golfstat rankings, including (in order of seed) Stanford (4), Baylor (9), Oklahoma (15), Georgia Tech (21), Pepperdine (27), North Carolina (33), North Florida (41) and BYU (45). Houston (51), Ohio State (58), UC Santa Barbara (66), Sacramento State (107) and South Dakota State (196). BYU, UCSB, Sacramento State and South Dakota State qualified automatically by winning their conference tournaments.

The Stanford Golf Course plays to a par of 70 and is 6,727 yards in length. It is the third layout under 7,000 yards the Yellow Jackets will play this spring.

The NCAA announced on Thursday all 81 teams and 45 individuals who will competing for spots in the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship, which will be conducted May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. Of the 81 teams, 31 were automatic qualifiers by winning their conference championships, and the other 50 earned at-large bids.

Each regional is a 54-hole, stroke-play event with 13 teams and 10 individuals, or 14 teams and five individuals, competing. The top five teams after 54 holes and one individual not on those teams advance from each regional to the NCAA Championship finals, which has a field of 30 teams and six individuals.

The other five regional tournaments will be conducted in Baton Rouge, La. (top seed, LSU); College Grove, Tenn. (top seed, Vanderbilt); West Lafayette, Ind. (top seed, Florida); Austin, Texas (top seed, Oklahoma State); and Sammamish, Wash. (top seed, Southern California).

HEAD COACH Bruce Heppler SAYS -- "This is why we open the door every Augusta, a chance to go play in the NCAA Tournament. We're enthused about that and excited about where we're going to play. It's a good golf course; it's challenging. If you look at our best finish of the year, which was at The Floridian at Valspar, (it was on) the most demanding golf course we have played the entire year. You can hit driver a lot there, and hopefully it's a place where our strengths will come through."

ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech's golf team is in its 22nd year under head coach Bruce Heppler. The Yellow Jackets have won 16 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 28 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up four times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GT_Golf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.