By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- It says here that fall’s the best time of year and the weather is supposed to be fantastic this weekend, so if you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors, Georgia Tech is here to help and free golf is included.
You can count on freshman Noah Norton getting into it.
Saturday night’s homecoming game against Wake Forest will offer crisp air and a sublime Midtown skyline for viewing pleasure. If you’re a day timer, the Yellow Jackets are hosting a great golf tournament Friday morning-Sunday in Alpharetta, where Norton’s duty will be limited to swinging sticks.
He’ll do no heavy lifting, although he and the Jackets already have done some; they’re ranked No. 4 in the nation with first-, second- and first-place finishes.
Nine teams ranked among the nation’s top 25 will be involved – all in the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate at the GCOG.
Norton’s feeling pretty good about it, and that’s no surprise.
He leads the Jackets in scoring (71.56), is already ranked No. 47 nationally, and plays for a team that is ranked No. 4 in the nation with a 36-1 record after falling only to Maui Jim Invitational host No. 23 Arizona State by a one.
Oh, and the GCOG is one of Tech’s home courses in addition to the East Lake Golf Club, site of the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship.
“I think that first, second and first was just the beginning,” Norton said. “We want to win a couple national titles. We didn’t play our second tournament. When we play the way we should, we’ll take everybody down by a good amount.”
That would be quite something this weekend.
The Jackets have already beaten the No. 1 team in the land, edging Alabama in a playoff to kick off the season in the Carpet Capital Collegiate in north Georgia.
They’ll have a shot at several more talented teams, as the 15-team GCOG field includes No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 11 Wake Forest, No. 15 Stanford, No. 16 Clemson, No. 22 UCLA and No. 23 Florida State.
“I think our field this year is as strong as it has ever been, [and] the fact that they have combined to win 10 times this fall seems a bit unusual and is pretty significant,” said Tech head coach Bruce Heppler. “That makes this a big challenge on a great golf course, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Jackets will close their fall schedule with four golfers who have played in each event to date in Norton and sophomores Tyler Strafaci (ranked No. 48), Luke Schniederjans (71) and Tyler Strafaci (116.) Senior Jacob Joiner (74), who joined the travel squad for the most recent tournament, rounds out the squad.
Three will play as non-scoring individuals for Tech, although their scores will not count toward the team total. Seniors Chris Petefish, who’s played all three events and scored in two, Michael Pisciotta -- who like Schniederjans calls the GCOC his home course even when he’s not playing for Tech – and junior Tyler Joiner will make the rounds.
There hasn’t been as much movement in the Tech lineup this fall as in recent seasons, and Norton has hardly suffered in his transition from golfing out of his small hometown of Chino, Calif., to Atlanta and college golf’s big time.
He’s loving it. You would, too, if you tied for 15th, tied for eighth and tied for seventh in your first three college tournaments. His record against other collegians is 197-27 (87.9 percent).
“He was ranked No. 1 in the junior rankings right before he got here, so that comes with certain expectations ...” Heppler said. “So, the expectation was that he could have an immediate impact for us. He has high expectations for himself. His goal is to win tournaments.
“He’s shot some low scores around here, and every time you come in and do that, it pushes everybody else. He’s enthusiastic, and he’s positive, and we all can’t get enough of that.”
Norton can’t get enough of college golf, which is so very different from junior golf. He adores the newly-opened Noonan Practice Facility off of 14th Street.
“First off, the atmosphere is a lot more team-like activities and camaraderie vs. high school ... and the biggest difference is the tools I have to utilize,” he said. “We have a hall of fame coach, an unbelievable assistant [Drew McGee], our practice facility is top notch, we get to play at championship courses, and we have a super supportive staff when it comes to academics.
“It’s pretty amazing here ... I love all three resources [the practice facility, East Lake and the Golf Club] ... no schools I know have all three.”
That’s more than three resources.