The Georgia Tech golf team will begin pursuit of its 15th ACC championship Friday at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C. The Yellow Jackets are favored, but face a stronger field than in recent seasons. Worth noting…
1. Tech is an overwhelming favorite. The Jackets are ranked No. 5 in the country by Golfstat, the top ACC team. Tech won the ACC every year 2009-2012 before finishing fourth last year. The Jackets have won their past two stroke-play tournaments and also a four-team match event last Saturday.
2. Other contenders: No. 8 Virginia, No. 12 Virginia Tech and No. 19 Florida State. However, Tech has not finished behind an ACC rival in any tournament this season.
3. An interesting facet of the tournament – rather than staying in hotel rooms, teams rent houses for the weekend. Tech coach Bruce Heppler, with the help of a booster, found the one that the Jackets have used for the last several years. It has a ping-pong table (a favored pastime among players), a pool table, a large-screen TV and is right on the water so players can fish.
“You just try to get them as relaxed as you can,” Heppler said.
4. While three team members are seniors and closing in on graduation, juniors Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans will be preparing for final exams that begin Monday. The tournament was previously a week earlier in the academic year.
“With a week in between, you could kind of just play basketball in the driveway and do all kinds of things at night, because you knew they had a week to recover,” Heppler said. “Now, there’s more guys going into their rooms with their books and trying to survive the following week.”
5. At the other end of the spectrum is senior Bo Andrews, who is just taking one three-credit class – strategic management – this semester. It’s all he needs to graduate.
“Breeze is not the right word, but it’s been a relief and it’s been really enjoyable to do this because you’ve put a lot of work in academically and there’s been ups and downs, for sure,” Andrews said.
6. Schniederjans has been playing phenomenally. He has won or shared four tournament titles this year. The only other Tech players to win four in a year are David Duval, Stewart Cink and Troy Matteson. He has a stroke average of 69.9 this season.
“He’s playing really, really well,” Heppler said. “It’s what everybody thought he would do out of high school. It just took a little while.”
Schniederjans has finished tied for seventh and tied for 10th in his first two visits.
The course “has not been in Ollie’s wheelhouse yet, but he’s never played it like he’s playing right now,” Heppler said.
7. One reason for the success Tech has had at Old North State Club, Hepppler said, is the course’s similarities with Tech’s home course, the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta. A year ago, Albertson set an ACC record by winning at 15-under-par with rounds of 66, 67 and 68, and Heppler thinks he could have scored even lower. The five players who will represent Tech are Richy Werenski, Seth Reeves, Andrews, Albertson and Schniederjans.
“I think any one of them could win the tournament,” Heppler said.