Golf team cruises to ACC championship|
Capturing tournament for sixth time golf blows away field by 10 strokes
By David Williams
Made every deadline this quarter
April 23, 1999
The Georgia Tech golf team won its sixth ACC Championship last weekend at the Old North Club in New London, North Carolina. It was the first championship for head coach Bruce Heppler after taking over the reigns of the program four years ago. Although it seems like last year's team might have been more likely to win, this year's team used solid and consistent play from every member to run away with the tournament, finishing ten shots ahead of the nearest competitor.
This was a three-day tournament and Tech wasted no time taking a share of the first round lead with the University of North Carolina who may have gotten some hometown flavor by practicing on the course during the season. Tech shot one under on the par 72, 7,102-yard course. No other team besides Tech and UNC broke par in the first round. Leading the way for the Yellow Jackets was Mike Pearson (Snellville, Ga.) who shot a 68 to gain a hold of the individual lead heading into the clubhouse. His nearest competitors were at 70, along with teammate Wes Latimer who shot a nice 71 to help bolster Tech's fast start. Hotshot Bryce Molder carded a 73 while Matt Kuchar shot a 75. Carlton Forrester had a rough first day carding a 79.
The second day saw Tech fight back from a slow start and step ahead to a one-shot team lead over Clemson and North Carolina. After shooting a career-low 68 to take the lead in the first round, Mike Pearson fell back a little, shooting a two-over 74 to finish in a tie for the lead with Clemson's John Engler (Augusta, Ga) and UNC's Max Harris. Pearson's slide came from a double-bogey on eight and a bogey on nine. Still, the senior showed his composure posting a one under 35 on the back nine to remain in the lead.
Said Coach Bruce Heppler, "We played a strong back nine to remain where we are." Indeed. Bryce Molder shot a three under 33 on the back and Kuchar shot a 35 in strong wind. The individual title hopes saw Tech place three players in contention heading into the final round as Latimer and Molder were at 144, two shots back of leader Pearson. With that in mind, Tech stepped into the final day knowing they had a very good chance of winning an ACC Championship, something no person on the current squad could place claim to.
Tech turned what looked like might be a close finish into a blowout by having three players shoot under par in the last round. Pearson, Latimer, and Kuchar all fired 71's to help Tech finish ten strokes ahead of the field. Carlton Forrester settled down and posted a 72, while Bryce Molder played steady posting a 73. Pearson (68-74-71, 213) finished second in individual play while Latimer (71-73-71, 215) finished third and Molder (73-71-73) finished seventh. Kuchar (75-74-71,220) finished twelfth while Forrester closed out the tourney in 24th place shooting 79-73-72 for a total of 224.
This is the second post season title for Coach Heppler and the team after winning the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament last year. An ACC crown is special, as you always want to be the best in your conference.
"Winning the ACC and the national championship is a goal we have every year," stated Heppler.
"We finished last in the conference my first year and eighth the next. So, for use to win it this year, means a lot and I'm just proud of this fine group of young men."
Tech's golf team has now won the ACC six times in the years of 1985, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and now 1999. The team also added another trophy to Tech's shelf for this year as the football team was the ACC co-champion with Florida State.
The team's next goal is to win the NCAA East Regional which will be held in Kingston, RI May 20-22.
Look for Tech to win this tourney also as the experience of the players from last year will push the squad to the forefront.