THE FLATS - Buoyed by having had six team members in the field for the 2017 U.S. Amateur, Georgia Tech’s golf team has been ranked No. 18 in the pre-season coaches’ poll announced by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
Head coach Bruce Heppler welcomes back four of the Yellow Jackets’ five starters that competed in last spring’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and NCAA Stanford Regional – senior James Clark (Columbus, Ga.) and sophomores Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.), as well as seniors Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.), who made the U.S. Amateur field and won a pair of amateur events last summer, and Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.), who qualified for the U.S. Amateur.
Heppler also welcomes three highly regarded freshmen – Will Dickson from Providence, R.I., Noah Norton from Chico, Calif., and Ben Smith from Novi, Mich. Norton advanced to the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur.
Tech is one of five Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the GCAA top 25, including Wake Forest (11), Virginia (15), Clemson (17) and Florida State (20). Duke and North Carolina received votes.
“We’re in about the same spot that we were at the end of last season, but we’ve got a lot more experience with this group, not to mention three collegiate wins from our sophomores, than we had heading into last spring,” said Heppler. “But I sense a greater belief in themselves going into this fall season, more confidence and more excitement. The success they had this summer, and in the U.S. Amateur, has given them belief instead of just hope.”
TECH 2017-18 SCHEDULE SET
Georgia Tech tackles its normally difficult schedule this fall, including the traditional opener at the Carpet Capital Collegiate on Sept. 8-10 at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga., and the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate at the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta.
The Yellow Jackets begin the fall for the 18th consecutive year in the Carpet Capital Collegiate, an event Tech has won seven times, as recently as 2013. The 14-team field for this year’s event includes pre-season top-20 teams Clemson and Virginia from the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Auburn, Alabama, Florida and LSU from the Southeastern Conference. Tech players have won medalist honors each of the last four years, with sophomore Luke Schniederjans capturing the title last fall and senior Jacob Joiner in 2015.
Tech hosts the 12th annual Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate, Oct. 20-22, at the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga. Formerly known as the United States Collegiate Championship, the 15-team field is as strong as ever with 12 of the participants ranked in the pre-season coaches top 25. Among those teams are top-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 8 Southern California and No. 12 UNLV, who all advanced to match play at the NCAA Championship last spring.
The Jackets return for their second trip to the Maui Jim Invitational, Sept. 22-24 at the Desert Forest Golf Club in Carefree, Ariz., where they will face several traditional golf heavyweights including Arizona State, Augusta, Houston and LSU. New on the schedule this fall is the Franklin American Mortgage Intercollegiate, hosted by Middle Tennessee State at The Grove Club in College Grove, Tenn., one of the six NCAA regional sites last spring.
Heppler will take his Yellow Jackets to the Big Island of Hawai’i for the Amer Ari Invitational and to the Puerto Rico Classic for the team’s traditional start to the spring schedule, and will compete in the Valspar Collegiate Invitational for the fifth consecutive year. New to the spring slate for Georgia Tech are the General Hackler Championship in Myrtle Beach and the Irish Creek Intercollegiate in Kannapolis, N.C. The ACC Championship returns to the Old North State Club (Apr. 20-22) in New London, N.C., after one year in South Carolina. NCAA regional tournaments take place May 14-16, and the NCAA Championship will be held May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
“We’ve got a really good schedule, and the Carpet Capital is a great place to start and see where we are,” said Heppler. “Hopefully we get off on the right foot. Then we go out to Arizona, which is a good bonus to see how we play there, since the NCAA Championship will be out there three straight years starting in 2020. We finish with arguably the best field in college golf, and the challenge there will be the best we’ve ever had. We’ve got a couple of new stops in the spring this year which will give us a lot of good prep for the ACC’s, which goes back to Old North State.”
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.