Panama City, Fla. – Freshman Benjamin Reuter pushed Wake Forest’s Alex Fitzpatrick to the 21st hole before succumbing in final and deciding match, as 11th-ranked Georgia Tech took a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to No. 17 Wake Forest in the championship match of the 68th Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship.
Bidding to win a conference-record 19th ACC title, the Yellow Jackets instead were runners-up for the eighth time in its ACC history, and the Demon Deacons captured their 19th title and first since 1989. In a back-and-forth affair befitting the two winningest ACC teams, Wake overcame a 2-1 match deficit by outlasting the Yellow Jackets in the final two matches to finish at Shark’s Tooth Golf Course, with Michael Brennan defeating Ross Steelman on the final hole, then Fitzpatrick defeating Reuter.
Reuter never held a lead in his match, but also never trailed by more than two holes against Fitzpatrick, a senior, an All-American and a 2021 a Walker Cup team member. The freshman from Naarden, The Netherlands cut Fitzpatrick’s lead to one hole with a birdie at the par-4 14th hole, then squared the match with a birdie at 17.
With their teammates watching and walking along, both players parred 18, sending the match to extra holes, where they both parred the par-4 first and the par-3 second. On the third playoff hole, the par-5 No. 3, Reuter landed his tee shot on the right side of the fairway. Attempting a cut around a tree to reach the green, his second shot instead stayed straight and was lost in the penalty area to the left of the green. Taking a penalty and a drop, he pitched up to within 15 feet and missed his par putt, then conceded the hole and the match to Fitzpatrick, who was on the green in three.
While Reuter was still battling from behind against Fitzpatrick, it looked as though the pivotal point might come from the third match, where the Jackets’ Steelman rallied from a 4-hole deficit through 10 to take a 1-up lead over Brennan with a birdie at 16. Brennan tied the match with a birdie at 17, however, and captured a 2-up victory with a birdie at 18, tying the overall match at 2-2.
Christo Lamprecht, Tech’s top player who was first off the tee for the Yellow Jackets, built a 3-hole lead in the first four holes and never looked back against Mark Power. The sophomore from George, South Africa, never lost a hole in the match, adding birdies at 12 and parred 13 to go up 5 holes and closing out the Demon Deacon at 14 to post Tech’s first point.
Parker Gilliam overcame a 2-hole deficit at the turn and knotted the match at 1-1 with a 2-up victory over Tech’s Connor Howe in the second match. But the Yellow Jackets soon won their second point when Bartley Forrester took a 4&2 win over Scotty Kennon in the fourth match. The junior from Gainesville, Ga., lost the first hole but quickly tied it back up and took a 3-up lead by the turn. His birdie at 16 closed out the match.
Tech now returns home to await selections for the NCAA regional tournaments, which will be announced live on Golf Channel at 4 p.m. May 4. Regional tournaments take place at six different sites around the country May 16-18.
HEAD COACH BRUCE HEPPLER SAID – “I couldn’t be prouder of the way we completed and played. We battled from top to bottom of the lineup. Ross’s match could’ve gone either way the way it played out. Benjamin competed so hard. He’s pretty torn up, but he’ll be all right. If he doesn’t do what he did yesterday, we aren’t here today. Unfortunately, only one team can win. It’s been a tremendous experience. We’re way more prepared for nationals than we were last year, so we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
TOURNAMENT INFORMATION – The ACC Championship was conducted the state of Florida for just the second time, and first time since 2001, when it was held at Disney’s Magnolia Course in Lake Buena Vista Fla. It was held outside the state of North Carolina for just the eighth time in conference history. Since 1995, the tournament was held at Old North State Club in New London, N.C., 22 times, with Georgia Tech winning the championship 12 times at that venue.
The par-72 Shark’s Tooth Golf Course measures 7,246 yards for the ACC Championship, which was conducted for the second time under a new stroke play/match play format Friday through Monday. The championship used the traditional 54-hole, stroke-play format from 1980 to 2019 (the championship was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19). All 12 competing teams (Miami, Pittsburgh and Syracuse do not sponsor men’s golf) competed at 54 holes of stroke play, with the standard low four rounds counting toward the team’s daily score each round. The top four teams after 54 holes were seeded in a match play bracket, which took place Sunday and Monday. Each 18-hole match was worth one point for his team. The format is similar to the way the NCAA Championship has been conducted every year since 2009.
The ACC Championship field included seven of the top 30 teams in the country, including No. 7 North Carolina, No. 11 Georgia Tech, No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 15 Wake Forest, No. 23 Clemson, No. 24 Florida State and No. 26 NC State.