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May 17, 2014

Georgia Tech rolls to NCAA regional crown

Georgia Tech won the NCAA Raleigh Regional by 17 shots on Saturday at Lonnie Poole Golf Course and now has one goal left: the school’s first NCAA championship.

Georgia Tech keeps piling up ACC golf championships, winning seven of the past nine titles.

On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets put the finishing touch on a victory in the NCAA Raleigh Regional, beating Washington by 17 shots at Lonnie Poole Golf Course.

There’s only one tournament left, only one title that has remained so elusive for the Jackets and Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler – an NCAA championship.

“That would mean a lot,” senior Seth Reeves said Saturday. “We don’t have one. Coach has been in this business for a long time and doesn’t have one.

“We’ve dominated the ACC but to get the big one would probably go down in Georgia Tech history as us being one of the best teams ever.”

The NCAA Championship will be played next week at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., and the Yellow Jackets will take a strong five-man lineup and a lot of momentum.

Ollie Schniederjans, the ACC player of the year, is a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award given annually to the college player of the year. The junior has won five tournaments this year but was the runner-up in the NCAA regional to sophomore Jonathan Sanders of Washington.

Despite a double-bogey at the final hole, Sanders had a 3-under-par 68 to close at 10-under 203. Schniederjans was second at 206 after a 74 on a sunny but windy day, and Adria Arnaus of Texas A&M used a 66 to tie for third at 207.

Georgia Tech’s real strength is in its numbers. Reeves tied Arnaus for third after a 68, Raleigh’s Bo Andrews tied for sixth at 209 and Anders Albertson was eighth at 211. Richard Werenski was tied for 15th but chipped in an opening-round 66.

“You know you’ve got a really good team when you have five guys who can play under par and are capable of winning the tournament,” Heppler said. “We’re in a good place. The golf course was a challenge but we played well and everyone was involved.”

The top five teams in the regional, hosted by N.C. State, advanced to Prairie Dunes. Georgia Tech was at 27-under 825, Washington at 10-under 842 and Texas A&M at 3-under 849 after a 284 team score Saturday that was the best in the field.

Kentucky (856) and Florida State (860) claimed the final two spots. Wake Forest was seventh, but junior Cyrus Stewart of Raleigh will go to Prairie Dunes as an individual entry after tying for sixth in the regional.

“The goal is to peak at the right time and we believe we are,” said Andrews, a senior whose father, Andy, is a former tennis All-American at N.C. State.

The Yellow Jackets have won six times this year, taking the ACC title by six shots over FSU as Schniederjans claimed medalist honors. Their margin of victory was a school best in a regional.

“It’s as good as we can feel going into the big one,” Schniederjans said.

Georgia Tech has been second in the NCAA Championship four times, most recently in 2005. Could this be the year?

“There’s a lot of people who want one,” said Heppler, who’s in his 19th year at Georgia Tech. “My perspective is you do the best you can every day and if it’s your turn, it’s your turn.”

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