This is late, so I apologize, but I finally spoke with golf coach Bruce Heppler Thursday morning. The Jackets are four days removed from what Heppler called one of the four or five best tournaments that his team has played in the 15 years he’s been at Tech.
The Jackets demolished the field at the ACC tournament, going 33-under-par and winning by 20 strokes, to take their third consecutive ACC title and Heppler’s eighth. Paul Haley, Kyle Scott and John-Tyler Griffin finished 1-2-3 and James White tied for eighth. Second-place Duke was nearly as close to sixth place as it was to Tech.
Heppler said the most impressive aspect of the victory was the first round. It’s his contention that the first round can often be the most difficult, particularly for a team that has heavy expectations on it, as Tech often does.
Compounding that was that Tech’s golfers went out in the last groups, extending their wait to get on the course, and played in the worst conditions, cold and rainy. Still, they shot 7 under the first day at Old North State Club in New London, N.C., taking an eight-stroke lead into the second round.
Heppler said he emphasizes to his players that they be “tough,” as much as that can be said of a golfer.
“When things really matter, you may run into a nasty day like that,” Heppler said. “Somebody always plays good and figures it out. It might as well be us.”
Haley played 54 holes in 10-under-par to win. Haley, Heppler said, came to Tech as a junior golf All-American, but got knocked around a bit at the beginning of his career trying to make the lineup. He finished his junior season strong last year, tying for fourth at the ACC and for ninth at the NCAA championship. He has now won the last two tournaments he’s played, the ACC last week and the Yellow Jacket Classic the week before. Pretty good for the fourth best player on the team.
Said Heppler, “I think 1 through 5, we’re as good as anybody.”
Tech will be off until the NCAA regionals will be May 19-21 at a site to be determined. Golf bracketologists should be advised that Heppler expects Tech, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, to get a No. 1 seed at one of the six regional sites. The top five teams will advance to the NCAA tournament May 30-June 6 in Stillwater, Okla.
Players are on their own through finals next week and then will play in a U.S. Open qualifying event May 9, which means for the time being Heppler doesn’t have a whole lot of coaching to do.
Instead, it’s “travel arrangements, paperwork, recruiting, raising money,” he said. “Those don’t seem to go away for some reason.”