For the second time in four years, the Georgia Tech golf team will have six players in the U.S. Amateur, with the 2017 event beginning with stroke play qualifying Aug. 14 at Riviera CC, the host course for the annual PGA Tour stop in Los Angeles.
The six Tech golfers in the field are seniors Jacob Joiner of Leesburg and Chris Petefish, sophomores Luke Schniederjans of Powder Springs, Tyler Strafaci and Andy Ogletree, and incoming freshman Noah Norton.
Ollie Schniederjans, Luke’s older brother, was one of the six Yellow Jackets on the 2013 team who qualified for the U.S. Amateur. Ollie and Richy Werenski are playing on the PGA Tour this year, with fellow 2013 U.S. Amateur qualifiers Seth Reeves and Anders Albertson both playing on the Web.com Tour.
UGA golfer Spencer Ralston of Gainesville also qualified for the U.S. Amateur along with incoming Georgia freshman John Catanzaro.
Georgia Southern will also be represented in the U.S. Amateur by junior Steven Fisk of Stockbridge.
Other college golfers from the state who qualified are Duluth’s Benjamin Shipp (North Carolina State), Athens’ Kyle Mueller (Michigan) and Mississippi commit Thomas Hogan of Brunswick, who is a senior in high school.
The lone mid-amateur qualifier from the state is Atlanta’s Chris Waters, who also competed in the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club along with Joiner.
Two of the sectional qualifiers for the U.S. Amateur were held at Atlanta area clubs, with Schniederjans capturing medalist honors at the Capital City Crabapple course, and Waters sharing medalist honors at Piedmont Driving Club.
Schniederjans shot 132 to edge Shipp by one at a course that will host the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship this fall, with Ralston and Ogletree tying for third at 134. Marietta’s Jonathan Keppler, a member of the Florida State golf team, was first alternate at 136, with Macon’s Travis Steed also shooting 136 to take second alternate status.
Waters shot 137 to tie for first in his qualifier, with Fisk third at 138 and Hogan getting the fourth and final spot at 138. UGA golf team member David Mackey of Watkinsville was one of four golfers to tie for fifth at 141 and was second alternate.
Joiner was the medalist in a qualifier in Decatur, Ala., with a score of 139, with Catanzaro tying for second at 140 and earning one of the other two spots in a three-man playoff. Strafaci was medalist in Miami Beach at 133, with Petefish getting the lone spot from a qualifier in Pennsylvania at 135.
Petefish won the Azalea Amateur in Charleston, S.C., this spring, and has runner-up finishes in two top amateur events – the Porter Cup and Monroe Invitational this summer.
U.S. Women’s Amateur
Seven college golfers from Georgia and two others who play on Division 1 programs in the state qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, with four of the seven Georgia residents making it to match play.
Roswell’s Rinko Mitsunaga, a member of the golf team at Georgia, won her opening match at San Diego CC, as did Briana Mao of Johns Creek, who plays at Northwestern. Both lost in the second round. Bailey Tardy of Peachtree Corners, Mitsunaga’s teammate in Athens, lost her opening match, as did Kennesaw State golfer Madison Caldwell of Dawsonville, who was defeated by Mao in the opening round.
Tardy tied for fifth in stroke play qualifying at 141 and was seeded fifth among the 64 players in match play. She lost 3&2 to a player from Taiwan after losing the first three holes. Tardy rallied with birdies at 6 and 8, but again fell 3-down with bogeys at 12 and 13. She won the 14th with a par, but lost the 16th and the match to a birdie.
Caldwell, who transferred from Western Carolina to Kennesaw this past season, shot 146 in qualifying to tie for 23rd, and was seeded 30th. She drew Mao in the first round and lost 5&3. Mao won five of the first six holes to take a 4-up lead and went on to the victory.
Mao shot 147 in qualifying and was seeded 35th. She lost to No. 3 seed Haley Moore of California 3&2 in the second round. Mao was 1-up after birdies at 4 and 8 and had three birdies on the first eight holes, but lost 9, 10 and 11 with bogeys, and lost the par-5 16th to a birdie, ending the match.
Mitsunaga shot 150 to tie for 57th in qualifying and made it through an 11-players-for-8-spots playoff. She won her first match on the 20th hole against the No. 6 seed from England. A birdie by Mitsunaga at the seventh squared the match, and the next eight holes were halved before Mitsunaga lost the 16th to a birdie. Mitsunaga won the 17th with a bogey, and captured the match with a par at the par-5 second, the second extra hole.
In the second round, Mitsunaga lost 2&1 to Californian Zoe Campos. Mitsunaga was 3-down after 10 holes, but won holes 13 and 15 to cut her deficit to 1-down. Campos won the 16th with a birdie and halved the 17th with a par to take the match.
Roswell’s Jessica Haigwood, who recently completed her college career at Augusta, shot 151 to miss the playoff by a shot. Kayla Jones of Milton, who plays at Florida State, shot 154 to fail to qualify, and Payton Schanen of Johns Creek, who plays at Mercer, finished at 158. Also failing to qualify was UGA golfer Jillian Hollis and Mercer’s Mary Janiga.
Mitsunaga and Haigwood shared medalist honors in a sectional qualifier at Settindown Creek with scores of 69, with Jones third at 72. Mao, Schanen and Caldwell all qualified out of state, with Tardy exempt into the event.