The fall has been good to this season’s Tech golf team. Closing out their schedule last weekend at the Kiawah Classic, Tech finished its 2015 fall season placing No. 10 or better in every tournament they played in. Led by Jacob Joiner and Vincent Whaley, the Jackets ended the season ranked No. 9 in the nation.
The eight-man team began the fall in Rocky Face, Ga., where they played in September’s Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm Golf Club. Tech entered the final day of the tournament in third place out 15 schools but ultimately slowed to a still-respectable fifth place finish. Joiner, however, finished the weekend four strokes under par to squeeze past Clemson’s Stephen Behr and Austin Langdale by one stroke and secure the number one spot on the individual leaderboard.
Later that month, the Jackets traveled to Kingston Springs, Tenn., to compete in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Collegiate Challenge Cup, a tournament they had won a year prior. Whaley and sophomore James Clark shone in the Volunteer State, entering Saturday tied for No. 16 and No. 8, respectively. Clark tapered off with an 81 on the final day to finish in a tie for No. 36, while Whaley played a bogey-free round of 67 to jump 13 spots on the leaderboard and ended the weekend at No. 3, his second career top-five finish. The team finished in a tie for No. 7 and lost on Sunday to Florida in the conference challenge portion of the tournament in which ACC teams are pitted against those from the SEC.
Hot off of two top-ten finishes and big rounds from a myriad of its players, the team took the short drive to Alpharetta to compete in the United States Collegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Georgia. A lineup consisting of Whaley, Joiner, Clark, Alpharetta native Michael Pisciotta, Chris Petefish, Tyler Joiner and Michael Hines struggled in the first two days of the tournament, ending Saturday in a tie for No. 10 out of 17 schools.
Although it appeared that the Jackets had were poised to settle for a mediocre finish to 2015’s USCC, they got back into their usual form on Sunday, posting four scores under par and bringing Tech to a solid No. 5. J. Joiner led the charge, shooting 69 (-3) on the day, followed closely by Clark, Petefish, and Whaley at 71 (-1).
To close the fall, Tech participated in Aramark’s Kiawah Classic, a first for the program. Clark and J. Joiner opened the tournament one under par with a pair of 71s, while an even 72 from Petefish and a 79 from Whaley brought the Jackets to a 293 (+5) in the opening round. Coming into the second day at No. 7, the Jackets only saw a single subpar round with a 71 from J. Joiner and posted a 299 (+11) and fell to No. 10 in the 22-school tournament. Heavy rains kept the squad from another final round rally and kept them at No. 10, the worst finish of the team’s spectacular fall.
This team, one of the youngest in recent memory, has shown that they are capable of playing at the high level that fans have come to expect from the Jackets. With the spring season and a senior campaign ahead of Whaley and at least two more years from every current member of the team but Hines, Tech is looking like a future NCAA powerhouse. Whaley and J. Joiner have finally settled into leadership positions after the departure of two PGA-caliber players, and the team should only get better as a result. With a busy spring on the horizon, fans should be prepared to see the Jackets shine in 2016 and beyond.