THE FLATS - Georgia Tech’s golf team, looking to capitalize in its season-opening victory at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, travel to Arizona this weekend for the second annual Maui Jim Invitational, which begins Friday at Desert Forest Golf Club in Carefree, Ariz.
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – The Maui Jim Invitational is being played Friday through Sunday at Desert Forest Golf Club, a 7,203-yard, par 72 layout on Carefree, Ariz. It is the second year in which the event, hosted by Georgia State’s golf program, has been played. Mirabel Country Club, where the inaugural event was held last September, is being renovated, and the tournament is set to return there in 2018. The Yellow Jackets finished sixth out of 16 teams in last year’s event, led by Chris Petefish, who finished in a tie for ninth place.
The 14-team field includes host Georgia State, Arizona State, Nebraska, Rice, Georgia Tech, LSU, Kent State, Augusta, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Hawai’i, Kansas, Houston and Lipscomb. Competition get underway at 7:30 a.m. local time Friday and Saturday, and 7 a.m. Sunday.
The Yellow Jackets are paired with 7th-ranked LSU and No. 21 Arizona State for Friday and Saturday’s rounds. Sunday pairings are determined by 36-hole scores.
TEAM UPDATE – The Yellow Jackets, ranked 18th in the pre-season poll of the Golf Coaches Association of America, defeated Alabama in a playoff to win the Carpet Capital Collegiate the weekend of Sept. 8-10. It was Tech’s eighth victory in the 29-year history of the event, and the 51st win for the program under head coach Bruce Heppler. The Jackets defeated the 19th-ranked Crimson Tide on the first hole of the playoff after the teams finished 54 holes tied at 14-under-par 850. The field also included pre-season top-20 teams Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Virginia and Wake Forest. All five Yellow Jackets finished under par for 54 holes, the first time that had happened since Tech won the 2014 Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Princeville, Hawai’i.
TECH LINEUP – Head coach Bruce Heppler will take the same five-man unit who won the Carpet Capital Collegiate, senior Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.), sophomores Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.), Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.), and freshman Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.).
Ogletree was Tech’s highest finisher, tying for seventh place, at the Carpet Capital Collegiate on the strength of his 69-68 to open the tournament. The other four all tied for 15th place at –under-par 215. Schniederjans fired a 4-under-par 68, and Norton added a 69, on the final day to rally the Yellow Jackets, and Schniederjans, the defending champion of the event, rammed home a 12-foot-putt on the first playoff hole to secure the victory for Tech.
Schniederjans has already won twice as a collegian, and Strafaci has won once, while Petefish captured a pair of amateur events last summer.
Senior Jacob Joiner (Leesburg, Ga.), who qualified for the U.S. Amateur in August and also has a college tournament win under his belt (2015 Carpet Capital Collegiate), will compete as an individual.
COACH Bruce Heppler SAYS – “We’ve been told the golf course is pretty tight, and there may be some places where we can’t hit driver. Our objective always has been to take out teams to different places. The PGA Tour plays in Arizona. The NCAA Championship, if we are fortunate enough to go, is there in 2021 and 2022. It’s just very different. Here we have tree-lined fairways that tell you where the ball should go. Out there, it’s just not as defined. There’s an art to it. The practice round will be important.
“Our team hits it pretty straight. We’ve only played one tournament, but from a ball-striking perspective, it’s about as good a group as has been here. All of them can drive the ball (accurately). Now we might have the driver taken out of our hands some, but it follows that if you’re the straightest driver, you should be the straightest 3-wood, or the straightest 2-iron. The guys have done some work on their putting, and we’re starting to see some scores in the low- and mid-60s."
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH GOLF
Georgia Tech’s golf team is in its 23rd under head coach Bruce Heppler, winning 51 tournaments in his tenure. 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.