The Tech golf team has a storied tradition with many top-five finishes and big wins. The team is one of the nation’s best, and some of Tech’s players have gone on to have successful careers playing golf. The great Bobby Jones and David Duval come immediately to mind, but Tech currently has three alumni that could have a shot at winning this year’s Masters.
This season is just like any other Tech season, as the Jackets once again find themselves inside the top-five at No. 4 in the nation and already have two top-five finishes out of just three matches played so far.
Tech’s overall record shows that the team has many capable golfers, but the player leading the charge and set to become another great player at the next level is junior James White.
White busted onto the scene last Oct. when he shot a record-setting 62 at the U.S. Collegiate Championship in Alpharetta, Ga., and he has not looked back. He won medalist honors in Puerto Rico in Feb. and recently won all four matches he played in Tech’s match-play tournament in March.
White currently is Tech’s top-ranked player, but he was not some prodigy who only enrolled at Tech to fill time before a jump to professional golf. White has had to earn his keep after starting slowly to begin his Tech career.
White had three rounds in the 80s to begin his freshman season and finished tied for 72nd in his last tournament of his sophomore season.
The transition from starring in a controlled environment at Harrison High School to a just another player on the team at Tech was White’s biggest struggle.
“It is just a lifestyle change. Going from high school, having someone watching over your back all the time, then you come here and coach tells you what you need to do and you got to figure out a way to do it.
Managing your time: when to eat, when to go to bed, when to study… no one is there to ask you about your school work, There is a lot on your mind,” White said.
Even through his struggles during his first two seasons, White never gave up hope or drastically altered his game. He stayed the course and just let time run its course.
“As I grew up and learned how to handle everything that goes into being a student athlete at Georgia Tech, I got better at it and it got easier, and it’s all fallen together now,” White said.
Off the course, White was just learning how to be a regular college student who happened to play golf. However, White discovered that another thing led to him having success while on the links.
“In high school, all I felt that I needed to do was practice a lot [on the range]…but as I have come into college, I have realized that as we play tournaments back-to-back-to-back throughout the semester that it gets a little better [each time]. So now I like having the rounds under my belt to get some momentum going,” White said.
White’s patience and steady play paid off, and he started to play better to begin his junior season.
White posted a top-10 finish as an individual at the Brickyard Collegiate on Oct. 10 and followed that tournament up with the previously mentioned 62 at the U.S. Collegiate Championship. White hardly cooled off and hit a 70 and a 72 the following days to secure a victory for Tech and left White kissing the trophy for the winner of the “Master’s of college golf.”
White success led to Head Coach Bruce Heppler making White the No. 1 player on the team.
Having gotten into the groove of college life and playing a high number of rounds, White thought that it was time to change something about his philosophy in order to get the most out of his game.
“I was always a pretty good putter and pretty good at chipping, but I did not hit a lot of greens in regulation, and the bottom line is that it is harder to score when you don’t hit greens in regulation…I started to just focus on hitting the green. Whether [the putt] was 40 or 50 feet away, I still had a chance to par or birdie.… Greens are bigger than little tiny spots where the hole is,” White said.
White and the Jackets continue to soar throughout their season and just recently won three out of four matches in a match play tournament.
The victories put Tech at No. 4 in the nation and White’s four victories earned him a No. 8 individual ranking. However, White is not buying into the hype, or at least on this particular day.
“I had been keeping track [of the rankings] up until last year and coming into this year. I have seen a lot of improvements, but I have to take my mind off of it and just re-focus my mind… your ranking doesn’t mean anything. It is your golf game [that gets you noticed],” White said.
While White may be the No.1 player on the Tech golf team, he hardly deserves all the credit for Tech’s outstanding season.
Just as White can go out and shoot in the mid-60s, Tech has two other players who are capable of shooting low rounds. Senior John-Tyler Griffin is ranked No. 13 and has been a big contributor for Tech for several years, and No. 23 ranked senior Kyle Scott could lead the team on any given day.
“I don’t feel like I have to play [like a No. 1]. We have qualifiers back home, and I don’t even know if I have one a qualifier this year. I get beat regularly by my teammates because they are all very good,” White said.
No matter who is posting the low round for the Jackets, White figures to play a significant role if Tech wants to repeat as ACC Champions.
Tech will get a tune-up at the Yellow Jacket Classic on April 16-17 before defending its title the following weekend on April 22-24.