THE FLATS - Rising sophomore Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) and incoming freshman Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.) became the fifth and sixth Georgia Tech golfers to make the field for the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship last week with strong closing rounds at their respective qualifiers.
They will join seniors Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.) and Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.) and rising sophomores Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.) and Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) in the field for the Amateur, which will take place Aug. 14-20 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The field of 312 players includes 64 who were fully exempt into the championship, and the remaining places in the field were filled through qualifying at 100 sites across the country and in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico between July 3-25.
Petefish was the first to qualify, winning his sectional on July 6 in Salix., Pa., followed by Jacob Joiner, who won his sectional on July 17 in Decatur, Ala. Schniederjans and Ogletree earned spots two days later in the qualifier in Milton, Ga., with Schniederjans winning medalist honors there. Last week, Norton shot 71-67 to grab one of the three spots available in Seaside, Calif. Strafaci shot rounds of 67-66 to win his sectional which offered just two spots.
The six qualifiers match the most for any Tech team. Six members of the Yellow Jackets' 2013 unit (which won six tournaments and reached NCAA match play three times) - Anders Albertson, Bo Andrews, Michael Hines, Seth Reeves, Ollie Schniederjans and Richy Werenski - qualified for the U.S. Amateur, which was held that year at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Andrews, Reeves and Werenski all advanced to match play. Five players from Tech's 1999 team - Carlton Forrester, Matt Kuchar, Wes Latimer, Bryce Molder and Matt Weibring (a group which would accumulate 19 tournament wins and three top-5 NCAA finishes) - along with alumnus and 1985 ACC Champion Bob McDonnell as well as future Tech All-American Nicholas Thompson in the field at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The success of the Jackets in U.S. Amateur qualifying understandably has head coach Bruce Heppler excited about his team's prospects for the coming year (listen to the entire interview at the link above). Four of Tech's six qualifiers for the U.S. Amateur won their sectionals, and the Jackets have combined for 20 top-10 finishes, including all U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur qualifying events.
"If you look at what they've done as a group, it's one of the best summers that we've ever had," said Heppler, heading into his 23rd year at the helm. "The consistency of the play is what has me enthused. We had some really great play by some younger guys during the year last year, but it wasn't consistent. That's leveled itself out this summer significantly. Even in the tournaments leading up to those qualifiers, I was enthused, because you're playing against players who are on other college teams, and those fields are limited to a lot of the best players in the country. These are the same players we'll see at The Farm, at Arizona and whatever."
MORE AMATEUR ACTIVITY
Western Amateur -- Chris Petefish and Luke Schniederjans are both in the field for the 115th Western Amateur, which gets underway Tuesday and runs through Saturday at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Ill. The field includes 156 invited players from across the globe, playing 36 holes of stroke play Tuesday and Wednesday, after which the field is cut to the low 44 scores and ties. The survivors play 36 holes of stroke play on Thursday to determine the final 16 players, who compete at match play Friday and Saturday to determine the champion. Each of the world's top-10-ranked players are in the field. Schniederjans is Tech's highest ranked player at No. 114, Petefish is No. 221.
Both players have morning tee times Tuesday and afternoon slots Wednesday (Petefish 8:20 a.m/1:20 p.m.; Schniederjans 8:30 a.m./1:30 p.m.) for the first two rounds of stroke play.
Palmetto Amateur -- Senior James Clark and Jacob Joiner are winding down their summer schedules by competing in the Palmetto Amateur at the historic Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C. The tournament begins Tuesday with a 78 player field competing over 72 holes of stroke play through Saturday.
Cardinal Amateur -- Jacob Joiner and incoming freshman Will Dickson (Providence, R.I.) both competed in the Cardinal Amateur last weekend at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. Joiner, who has qualified for the U.S. Amateur, tied for 12th place with a 2-over-par total of 212. Dickson tied for 49th.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech's golf team is entering its 23rd 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.