Tech – NCAA, page 18
Jackets lose to champion for 3rd time in 5 years
By Mike Blum
For the third time in the past five years, Georgia Tech advanced to match play in the recent NCAA Golf Championship at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.
The Yellow Jackets advanced past the opening round for the first time, but just as in 2010 and 2011, the team was eliminated by the eventual national champions.
Georgia Tech lost to Alabama 3-0-2 in the semifinals, ending what had been a successful run through the stroke play and match play portions of the tournament.
The Jackets placed 2nd in stroke play competition, finishing six strokes behind California, which dominated college golf throughout the 2012-13 season before being upset by Illinois in the semis. Illinois lost in the finals to Alabama, which also reached the finals in 2012 before losing to Texas. Illinois took out the defending national champion Longhorns in the quarterfinals.
Alabama won 4-1 in the finals, losing just two of 15 matches in the tournament.
Match play was introduced to the NCAA Championship in 2008, with Tech qualifying in both 2010 and ’11. Each time, the Jackets were eliminated 3-2 by Augusta State, which went on to win the national title.
Playing on one of their home courses in metro Atlanta, Tech got past UNLV 3-2 in the quarters, advancing when Ollie Schniederjans hit his approach shot to two feet on the first extra hole for a birdie to clinch the victory.
That put the Jackets in the semifinals against Alabama, ranked 2nd in the country behind Cal. The Tide rolled over New Mexico 4-1 in their quarterfinal match, and followed with an impressive 3-0-2 victory over Tech in the semis to set up the title match with a surprising Illinois team.
“Overall, I think it went really positive,” Georgia Tech junior Seth Reeves of Duluth said of his team’s showing for the week. “After last year when we didn’t make nationals, this shows that we’re one of the best teams in the country.”
Alabama, which includes three players ranked in the top 10 nationally, came close to running the table against the Jackets, winning two matches decisively, ending one on the 17th hole and having a chance to take the other two on the 18th.
Schneiderjans, who also turned in a clutch performance in the 2012 NCAA Fall Preview at the Crabapple course to lift Tech into a tie with Cal for the team title, fell 4-down after seven holes against Alabama’s Bobby Whitsett and lost 3&2 in the anchor match. Whitsett was 4-under after seven holes and did not make a bogey.
Reeves, who turned in strong showings at Crabapple in both the Preview and NCAA Championship, was 2-down after four holes against Justin Thomas, who was 3-under after five and survived a pair of bogeys when Reeves bogeyed both as well. A monster birdie putt on the 14th cut Reeves’ deficit to 2-down, but he missed a birdie try after an excellent approach from a fairway bunker at 17, losing 3&1.
Anders Albertson, who went from playing the anchor match in the quarterfinals to the first match out on the semis, birdied the 10th hole to go 1-up against Bobby Wyatt, who followed with birdies on the next two holes to take the lead. Wyatt had a chance to win the match at 18, but missed a short par putt.
Also earning a half point for Tech was Bo Andrews, who led his match 2-up after birdies at 7 and 8, but was 4-over the rest of the way without a birdie.
Things were looking promising for Georgia Tech for most of the front nine despite Alabama jumping out to two early leads. Tech freshman Shun Yat Hak led his match 2-up after seven holes, winning the seventh with a bogey. But he lost six of the next seven holes, taking four bogeys and a double bogey, and lost 4&3.
With neither Reeves nor Schniederjans able to cut into the leads built by two of Alabama’s three standouts, once Hak’s match turned, Tech’s hopes of victory were dashed.
Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler altered his lineup a bit to match up with Alabama, with his three best players for the week winding up paired against Alabama’s top three in first, fourth and fifth matches.
Reeves went out first in the quarters against UNLV, and got off to a spectacular start when he aced the third hole and eagled the par-5 fourth to take a 2-up lead. But his opponent started making birdies and Reeves took several bogeys to lose 4&3.
Hak played well in his match with an eagle and a pair of birdies, but his opponent carded three birdies in a 4-hole stretch to go 3-up, and closed out the match 2-up with a birdie at 18.
Andrews, whose score did not count in any of the three stroke play rounds, survived a shaky front nine, winning 3&2 when his opponent lost the last three holes with two bogeys and a double bogey.
Albertson led 3-up after 10 in the anchor match, but his opponent birdied 12, 13 and 14 to pull even before Albertson rolled in a long birdie putt at 15 to regain control, winning 2&1.
That left it to Schniederjans’ match to decide the outcome, with the Powder Springs sophomore leading 2-up after his third birdie of the day on the 12th. UNLV’s Kevin Penner, who tied for 2nd in the individual competition, fought back with birdies at 13 and 17 to send the match to extra holes, but Schniederjans ended it quickly when he came close to holing his second shot on the par-4 first hole.
Clutch play has been a hallmark of Schniederjans’ two seasons at Tech. When asked if he liked being in those kind of situations, he responded “apparently. That’s when I get really focused.
“A bunch more than this has happened. That’s a huge help to have a bunch of experience in situations like that where I’ve been really clutch.”
Albertson, a sophomore from Woodstock, said the team was well aware of the fact that the Jackets had been eliminated twice previously in the first round of match play.
“It’s nice to get over that hurdle,” he said.
The Jackets advanced to match play thanks to a strong showing in three days of stroke play, with Tech leading by one stroke heading to the final round.
Tech opened with a 6-under 274 to trail by four to Arizona State, which got a 61 from Jon Rahm. Another 274 gave the Jackets the lead after 36 holes at 12-under 548, one ahead of Cal.
The Golden Bears, who won 11 times in 13 tournaments this year – including their shared title with Georgia Tech in the Fall Preview – matched the low score of the final round (275) while Tech was over par for the first time in the tournament at 282.
Cal finished at 16-under 824 with Tech 2nd at 830 and Alabama and Texas tying for 3rd at 833. Illinois was the only other team to finish under par at 835. New Mexico, Texas A&M, UNLV and Arizona State tied for 6th at 842, with ASU failing to advance from the 4-way playoff for the final three spots for match play.
Max Homa of California was the individual champion by three strokes at 9-under 201, closing with scores of 65-66. Rahm was among six players tying for 2nd at 204, with Schneiderjans dropping out of a tie for 2nd with a bogey on his final hole. He tied for 8th at 205 with scores of 67-68-70.
Reeves, who tied for 2nd in the Fall Preview at 210, shot in the 60s all three days (69-69-68) and tied for 13th at 206. Albertson was in the top 10 after scores of 69-67, but slipped to a 73 the final round and tied for 26th at 209.
Hak, who did not play in the Fall Preview, contributed scores of 69-70-71, tying for 32nd at 210.
Tech had four scores in the 60s the first day, with Schniederjans beginning his round with four straight birdies after starting at the 10th. He missed a short putt at the 14th for a fifth straight birdie. Reeves had five birdies in his round, including three in a row on holes 5, 6 and 7.
Albertson was low for Tech in the second round with a 67 after running off five birdies on his first eight holes. All five team members played well, with Andrews even par until a double bogey at the 18th.
Reeves’ 68 was Tech’s best score the final day, highlighted by an eagle at the fifth. Schniederjans’ bogey at the 18th was one of three on the hole by the Jackets, who stayed close to Cal for most of the day.
Georgia was never a serious contender for a top-8 finish, ending up T19 at 850, eight shots out of the playoff for the final three spots. The Bulldogs improved slightly each day, posting scores of 286-283-281.
Joey Garber, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury for most of the Spring schedule, was low for the Bulldogs, tying for 38th at 211 after scores of 70-71-70. Three Georgia golfers – freshman Lee McCoy of Clarkesville, Keith Mitchell and Nicholas Reach – were T60 in the 156-player field at 213.
McCoy closed with scores of 70 and 69, with Mitchell and Reach between 70 and 72 in each round. Albany senior T.J. Mitchell, the Bulldogs’ No. 1 player for most of the season, struggled in his final college tournament, with none of his three scores needed. He shot 73-72 the final two days.
It was a mostly successful tournament for McCoy, who was even par the first day after 13 holes before a tough closing stretch left him at 4-over for the day. He birdied five of his last 11 holes in the second round to match the team’s low score, and was low for the Bulldogs the final day, closing his tournament with a birdie at the 18th.
“As a freshman, I feel gratified to be in the lineup,” McCoy said after his third round 69. “I’m kind of frustrated that we didn’t make match play, but I’ve played worse. I’m not too frustrated with how I played.”