Classes resume at Georgia Tech next Monday, but the golf team — nearly the entire golf team — decided to get a head start on reconnecting and swapping summer stories.
They might have more tales to write. Six Yellow Jackets successfully qualified for the 113th US Amateur, being held this week at The Country Club and Charles River Country Club. Play started on Monday, and concludes Sunday.
No college has more active players on its roster playing in the US Amateur than the Georgia Tech Six. It’s only an eight-man team; one of the other two players was injured and couldn’t make an attempt to qualify, and the other is an incoming freshman. The six who could try to get through — Richy Werenski, Anders Albertson, Bo Andrews, Seth Reeves, Michael Hines, and Oliver Schniederjans — all were successful.
“For the six of us to qualify, I don’t even know if that’s ever been done before,” said Reeves. “The fact we had six guys who did is pretty crazy.”
Werenski, a senior-to-be from South Hadley, led the way after Monday’s opening stroke-play round. With former Georgia Tech star and six-time PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar watching him play and wearing a team golf shirt, Werenski shot a 4-under-par 66, which trailed Nick Hardy of Northbrook, Ill., by one shot for the overall lead.
The first-day scores from the other five weren’t as good, but they weren’t bad. Albertson and Schniederjans opened with 72, Hines had 73, Reeves 75, and Andrews 76. Werenski and Hines played at Charles River Country Club, the other four at The Country Club.
There are other schools that have multiple players here, such as California and national champion Alabama, which beat Georgia Tech in last season’s NCAA semifinal match. But some of the players from those two teams were given automatic exemptions into the US Amateur by the US Golf Association. All six Yellow Jackets went through 36-hole sectional qualifying, making the accomplishment even more impressive.
“I think this is probably one of the four or five neatest things in the 19 years I’ve been there,” said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “We’ve won a lot of tournaments and won a lot of stuff, but these guys are good guys, and this is just a very special tournament, and every time you get to play in one you need to be grateful for it. It’s certainly one of the bigger accomplishments that we’ve had since I’ve been doing this, for sure.”
Three of the six — Reeves, Schniederjans, and Albertson — entered the same sectional qualifier, which was held in Atlanta and offered just five spots into the US Amateur. Heppler would have preferred that the three didn’t go up against each other, but the trio took care of those concerns, finishing 1-2-3.
“It’s really cool,” said Andrews, a senior captain who was the first of the six to qualify, in Virginia. “To be playing for Georgia Tech and representing Georgia Tech, along with five other guys, especially your best friends, it’s as good as it gets.
“I was pretty excited when I got in. I knew they were going to take care of their stuff, and told them that I’d see them here.”
Heppler said he’s had five of his players competing together in previous US Amateurs, but that all five were not on the roster at the time; one might have been an alum, or an incoming student.
With so much young talent, the US Amateur is a popular place for college coaches to scout players, something Heppler said he always does. This time he also gets to watch his team play in the most prestigious amateur tournament in the world.
“It’s always played at really special places, so when they get to play in that, it’s an opportunity that not everybody gets, so you’re excited for them,” Heppler said. “They’re experiencing one of the unique events that they could ever play in.”
When the season starts back up again this fall, Heppler will have some tough decisions to make, since teams can only bring five players to compete in college tournaments. Only five. Six are here. High man at the US Amateur sits?
Not a bad problem to have.
“I think it’s a great start to our year. It shows how deep we are, to have six guys who played in the US Am,” Reeves said. “One guy I played with today asked me on the second hole, ‘Which of your guys made it?’ and I said, ‘Everybody.’ That’s pretty cool.
“I think everybody knows we’re pretty good, that we finished the year off pretty well, but I think the spotlight will still be on Cal and Alabama, maybe Texas. We might be under the radar.”
Perhaps not anymore, depending on how this week plays out.