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Jackets fall behind early, rallies fall short
Hutchinson, Kan. – Georgia Tech’s golf season came to an end Tuesday morning with a 4-0-1 loss to Oklahoma State in a quarterfinal match of the NCAA Division I Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
For the fourth time in five years, the No. 5-ranked Yellow Jackets advanced to match play in the NCAA Championship, and for the third time fell in the quarterfinals. Ollie Schniederjans, fourth off the tee for the Jackets, put up Tech’s only score with a halved match against the Cowboys’ Ian Davis.
The match which ended while both players stood in the 18th fairway, as Wyndham Clark closed out the third match against Tech’s Anders Albertson for Oklahoma State’s clinching point.
In the other quarterfinal matches, Alabama, the No. 2 seed, defeated SMU, 3-2, while No. 3 LSU toppled No. 6 UCLA, 4-1, and top-seeded Stanford eliminated No. 8 Illinois, 3-2. The Cowboys moved on to face the Cardinal in the afternoon semifinals, with the Crimson Tide advancing to face the Tigers.
Oklahoma State, ranked No. 2 in the nation and seeded fourth in the NCAA match play bracket, took early leads in all five matches, winning the opening hole in the third, fourth and fifth matches and leaving the Yellow Jackets to play from behind the entire morning.
“They hit some really good shots on No. 10 (Tech’s starting hole), and we had some putts to win some holes here on the front side, and just didn’t make them,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler, who completed his 19th season with the Yellow Jackets. “This is a format where you’re going to have a putt to win, lose or halve the hole, and we just didn’t make enough of them.
“The reality is that only one team comes away from here completely satisfied. I love our guys. We’ve got three seniors playing their last tournament, so that’s kind of tough. We just got behind and had to chase them all day.”
Richard Werenski, Bo Andrews and Albertson each fell three holes behind during their opening nine holes. To their credit, all three battled back and kept the matches close, two of them lasting all the way to the 18th hole. Werenski lost to Talor Gooch, 2 and 1, while Andrews lost to Zachary Olsen and Albertson fell to Clark by 1-up scores.
Meanwhile, Schniederjans and Davis went back and forth in the fourth match, Schniederjans falling behind by two after eight holes before winning 18 and 1 (Tech started its match on the 10th hole) to square it. The Tech junior nailed a short birdie putt at the par-3 4th hole to go ahead by a hole, but Davis eagled the par-5 7th to even the match again, and that’s the way it remained.
Reeves and Niebrugge, good friends who faced each other twice last summer in the U.S. Amateur (Reeves won) and Western Amateur (Niebrugge won), both played extremely well. Each was 6-under-par and all square through 10 holes before Reeves bogeyed the par-3 2nd to fall behind. After he birdied the par-4 3rd to square the match again for the last time, the Tech senior flew the green on the par-4 5th for a bogey and was not able to recover.
“Seth played really, really well, but Jordan was just flawless,” said Heppler, who consented to Reeves’ request to play Niebrugge. “They played each other at the U.S. Amateur and Western Amateur and split them, so he thought it would be fun on his last time out here to play against a friend of his. They enjoy playing together because they played really, really well.”
Tech leaves Hutchinson, Kan., having won six times this year, the most for the program since 2001-02, and nearly crowned its fourth individual national champion. The Yellow Jackets will finish ranked among the top 10 in Golfstat and in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index for the 11th time since 2000.
Schniederjans won or shared medalist honors in five events, while Reeves won twice. Three Tech players earned All-ACC recognition, while all five starters here at the NCAA Championship were named to the Golf Coaches Association All-America team. Schniederjans and Reeves are automatic All-Americans based on their national championship finish in stroke play, but both would have earned the honor regardless of their finish at Prairie Dunes.
“It’s probably one of the three best we’ve ever had,” said Heppler. “We had seven individual winners and almost had a guy win the NCAA. It’s as good a group as we’ve had, and it’s been a pleasure to coach them for sure.”
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH PLAY QUARTERFINALS
Talor Gooch (OSU) def. Richard Werenski (GT), 2 and 1
Zachary Olsen (OSU) def. Bo Andrews (GT), 1-up
Wyndham Clark (OSU) def. Anders Albertson (GT), 1-up
Ian Davis (OSU) vs. Ollie Schniederjans (GT), all square (match ended after 17 holes)
Jordan Niebrugge (OSU) def. Seth Reeves (GT), 2 and 1 (match conceded)