Rio Grande, Puerto Rico – Seemingly in control with a six-stroke lead midway through Tuesday’s final round, Georgia Tech stumbled over its final nine holes and dropped to a fourth-place finish at the 26th Puerto Rico Classic, played at the Ocean Course at the Rio Mar Resort and Spa.
TECH LINEUP – With the field battling windy conditions for the second straight day, the Yellow Jackets held firm over the first nine holes, building a five-stroke lead at the start to six, but dropped 14 shots to par the rest of the way and ended up five strokes off the lead. Sophomore Tyler Strafaci (Davie, Fla.) finished with a 1-over-par 73, freshman Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.) shot 74, and senior Chris Petefish (Danville, Calif.) and sophomore Andy Ogletree (Little rock, Miss.) carded 75s. Sophomore Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.), the defending individual champion, did not count for the second straight day with a 77.
Still, Petefish, Strafaci and Norton all posted top-10 finishes, tying for seventh place at even-par 213, while Ogletree and Schniederjans tied for 43rd at 223 (+10). Petefish recorded his fifth career top-10 finish, while Strafaci and Norton each have three.
TEAM LEADERBOARD – No. 16 Clemson earned its third victory in the Puerto Rico Classic by playing even-par golf Tuesday, scoring a one-stroke victory over eighth-ranked Oklahoma. The Tigers finished at 2-over-par 854, while the defending NCAA champion Sooners (1-over-par Tuesday) posted a 54-hole total of 855 (+3). Host team Purdue, in second place to start the day, shot 6-over-par 290 and finished third at 857 (+5). Tech, which posted a 13-over-par round of 297 Tuesday, finished the tournament at 859 (+7).
Top-ranked Alabama, a six-time winner in Puerto Rico, finished a distant fifth at 866 (+14), followed by Georgia (867, +15) and NC State (870, +18). Eight of the 15 teams in the field are ranked among the nation’s top 50.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – Alabama junior Lee Hodges, the 36-hole leader, maintained his lead with an even-par 71 Tuesday and came away with the victory at 7-under-par 206, two shots clear of Clemson’s Turk Pettit, who finished at 5-under-par 208. NC State’s Stephen Franken, Alabama’s Davis Riley and Oklahoma’s Quade Cummins tied for third at 4-under-par 209. Purdue’s Jason Hong finished alone in sixth place at 212 (-1).
Petefish, Norton and Strafaci were part of a five-way tie for seventh place. Only two individuals were able to break 70 on Tuesday.
COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAID – “No doubt this was a pretty disappointing finish today. We got the start we wanted and made the turn at minus-1 with our counters but played the last nine 14-over.We just have to continue to develop toughness by getting back into the same situation over and over again.”
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – Georgia Tech made its 26th appearance in the Puerto Rico Classic, typically the second event on the Yellow Jackets’ spring schedule after its opening trip to Hawai’i, having participated in every renewal of this tournament. Normally played at the River Course at Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort, the event was contested this year at the 6,716-yard, par 71 Ocean Course due to lingering damage from last summer’s hurricane season.
Eight of the 15 teams in the field are ranked among the nation’s top 50 in the Golfstat rankings – Alabama (1), Georgia Tech (3), Oklahoma (9), Clemson (17), Kentucky (18), Marquette (33), NC State (37), Northwestern (44), Purdue (52), Middle Tennessee (73), Virginia Tech (76), Maryland (77), East Carolina (79), Georgia (93), UNC Greensboro (116).
Tech has won the event five times and finished second six times. Seven Jackets have earned medalist honors, including Mikko Rantanen (1994), Stewart Cink (1995), Matt Kuchar (1998), Troy Matteson (2002), Roberto Castro (2007) and James White (2011) prior to Luke Schniederjans’ triumph last spring.