New London, N.C. – Tyler Strafaci rode a hot back nine to a final-round 68, and Chris Petefish dealt the clinching blow with a birdie at 18 Sunday as fifth-ranked Georgia Tech outlasted No, 15 Clemson to win the 65th Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship at the Old North State Club.
Petefish, who teed off the 18th hole with the Yellow Jackets’ just one shot ahead of Clemson, hit “my best tee shot of the weekend” near the corner of the fairway on the par-5, then hit a low liner on his second shot which came to rest in the middle of the green, some 20-25 feet from the hole, which was in the back. The senior from Danville, Calif., calmly rolled his first putt to within two feet, then after the Tigers’ Doc Redman finished off his par, tapped in to give the Jackets a two-shot victory.
The conference title was Georgia Tech’s ninth in the last 13 years, its 11th in 17 championships played at the Old North State Club, the 12th for head coach Bruce Heppler and the 17th in program history. The victory was the Yellow Jackets’ fourth of 2017-18 and gives the team an automatic entry and a likely top seed in an NCAA regional.
TECH LINEUP – With Clemson charging and overtaking the Yellow Jackets on the front nine, Tech needed someone to get hot. Strafaci stepped up to birdie four of five holes to start the back nine, and the sophomore from Davie, Fla., added another at the 18th to finish off a 4-under-par 68. Sophomore Luke Schniederjans (Powder Springs, Ga.) shook off a sluggish second round to card a steady 3-under-par 69, playing the front nine in 3-under-par and parring out the rest of the way.
Both players tied for 12th place as the Yellow Jackets’ highest finishers. It was the first time Tech has been able to win the ACC title without an individual finishing in the top 10.
Petefish played a steady round with two bogeys and two birdies on the front, one bogey and one birdie (at the 18th) on the back for a 72, while freshman Noah Norton (Chico, Calif.) and sophomore Andy Ogletree (Little Rock, Miss.) each shot 73.
For the weekend, Tech had a different scoring leader each day – Schniederjans with a 65 Friday, Ogletree and Petefish with 68s Saturday, and Strafaci with a 68 Sunday – and the Jackets posted only one score higher than a 74.
TEAM LEADERBOARD – Georgia Tech started the day with a six-stroke lead over Clemson and Notre Dame, and while the Yellow Jackets stood still by playing the front nine 1-under-par, the Tigers were able to overtake the leaders by playing the front nine in 11-under-par, spurred by a 6-under-par start by U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman.
But Redman and the Tigers cooled off, and the Yellow Jackets were able to pulled back ahead behind Strafaci’s four birdies in five holes to start the back nine. The teams remained close throughout the rest of the round, but Tech never gave up the lead again.
The Jackets shot 6-under-par 282 Sunday and completed 54 holes at 29-under-par 835. The Tigers posted a 10-under-par 278 and finished the championship at 27-under-par 837. Tech took a 3-2 lead in head-to-head matchups against Clemson this year, and the total stroke differential between the two teams has been just four strokes.
Wake Forest made the biggest move of the day, playing its final round in 14-under-par 274 to finish third at 838 (-26), while Virginia also closed strong (10-under-par 278Sunday) to finish fourth at 840 (-24). Defending champion Duke was fifth at 844 (-20), followed by North Carolina (-19), Notre Dame (-19), NC State (-18), Florida State (-16), Boston College (-8), Louisville (-2), and Virginia Tech (+15).
INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – Virginia’s Thomas Walsh became the fourth golfer in program history and second straight to win the ACC individual title, joining Jimmy Stanger (2017), Ben Rusch (2012), and Pete Arend (1955). The junior won by two strokes over Clemson’s Doc Redman with scores of 67, 65, and 68 to win the event with a tournament record 16-under 200, topping the previous record of 201 set by Georgia Tech’s Anders Albertson in 2013.
COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAID – “It’s a great conference with all these teams that are ranked, so any time you win here it means a lot, and this year is no different. We knew that Clemson would come charging up the leaderboard, they always do. It got close and exciting and this place brings that out. We’re just happy to walk away on top this time.
“They’ve all done that all year long. It’s good that you’ve got five in the game. Even down to the last hole, they’re always covering for each other, no matter what happens.”
Of Petefish’s second shot at the 18th, Heppler said, “I’m guessing he pulled it, because the way the green is here, if you hit it in the right third, it’s going to go over into the hole, and it’s hard to get up and down. We were trying to go front edge. He had a lie that was in the rough on the down slope, so I knew it was going to run out. Either the club shut down on him a little bit, or he just said the heck with coach and I’m going right at it. Whatever it was, it worked out.”
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – The 65th annual Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship returned to the Old North State Club in New London, N.C., after one year in Clinton, S.C. Old North State is a 7,102-yard, par 72 layout adjacent to Badin Lake, about 50 miles north of Charlotte, N.C.
The championship was contested over 54 holes, 18 each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Seeding for the championship was based on Golfstat rankings, with Tech currently ranked No. 5 and the top seed in the championship. The rest of the ACC, in order of Golfstat ranking, are Clemson (15), North Carolina (17), Florida State (19), Wake Forest (28), Duke (29), NC State (35), Louisville (47), Virginia (48), Notre Dame (73), Virginia Tech (90), Boston College (139)
Tech has won 11 of its 17 ACC men’s golf championships at the Old North State Club. Wake Forest leads all schools with 18 league titles and 22 individual champions. Georgia Tech, which has won 14 outright ACC Championships and shared two more, has produced 11 individual medalists since joining the conference in 1979. North Carolina is third with 11 titles (10 outright), followed by Clemson with 10 (nine outright) and Duke, the 2017 champion, with nine.