Tech finishes sixth in birdie-fest on Big Island

Senior Bartley Forrester lines up a putt at a recent tournament at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

To kick off the spring season, Tech teed off at the Amer Ali Intercollegiate in one of the only places warm enough to play golf in early February — Hawaii. Hosted by the University of Hawaii-Hilo, the Amer Ari Intercollegiate was a 54 hole, three day tournament featuring some of the top teams in the country, including ACC foe University of North Carolina and longtime Tech rival Auburn University. 

Head Coach Bruce Heppler decided to send youth with older, experienced players, as both freshman Kale Fontenot and freshman Carson Kim got the call along with graduate student Bartley Forrester, sophomore Hiroshi Tai and senior Christo Lamprecht. Senior Aidan Kramer was also in the lineup as an individual. 

The tournament’s early stage showed pars were not going to be enough on a Mauna Lani North Course that measured at a mere 6,913 yards. Early performances were strong from multiple teams in the field, but the Tar Heels led the way with a tournament-best 262 (-26). 

The Jackets’ 276 (-12) leave much desired. The team’s 12 under par round was led by great rounds from Tai, Forrester and Lamprecht, shooting 68, 67 and 69, respectively. Even with this impressive play from the Jackets, they found themselves tied for eighth after the first round with a lot of ground to make up.

Going into the second round, Tech knew that another round of 276 would not be enough to make a run at the lead. Forrester and Lamprecht took that message to heart and fired a pair of 67s, combined with Tai’s 68 and Fontenot’s 71, which was enough to move them up the leaderboard. Even with the additional push from Friday’s round, the Jackets were only able to move up two spots to sixth. UNC backed up their round of 26 under with a round of 268, 20 under, to maintain their lead over Arizona State, Auburn and Washington. On the individual side, Arizona State’s Wenyi Ding vaulted into first place with a 64 to back up his 63 on the first day. 

As a junior golfer, Ding previously won the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes, beating now LIV golfer Caleb Surratt in the championship match. 

Heading into the final round, the Jackets would need a near miracle to overcome their large deficit, but a good round could still put them inside the top five of a highly contested field. Tech started right out of the gates — the whole team quickly got under par. Across the team, the Jackets yielded three eagles in the final round, including a hole-out on hole 18 from Kim. Using the momentum from these eagles, the Jackets were able to put together their best round of the tournament, a 23 under, 265. Led by Fontenot with a seven under 65, the whole rest of the team shot 67 or better. Lamprecht, Tai and Forrester were able to finish in the top 20 in the individual, and Forrester was able to crack into the top 10. 

Even with the Jackets posting the second best team round on Saturday, they could not move up any positions in the team contest, finishing sixth overall. The Heels fought off the Sun Devils to win the Amer Ari by five shots, 68 under to 63 under. 

Even though Arizona State could not  mount a team comeback, Ding bettered his two rounds of 63 and 64 with a final round 62 to win the individual competition by nine shots. His 27 under par, 189 total, set a NCAA individual and Sun Devil record previously held by Jon Rahm.

Although Tech could not crack the winners circle for their opening spring event, finishing sixth in this competitive field was still a success. After returning from their trip to the Big Island, the Jackets will prepare for the Watersound Invitational at the Shark’s Tooth Golf Club in Panama City, Florida next week.