Golf struggles at Linger Longer Invitational

Sophomore golfer Hiroshi Tai inspects his shot after shooting a 68 in the first round. Tai led the team throughout the Linger Longer Invitational, but Tech struggled in the final round. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

In mid-March, Tech traveled to their closest tournament of the semester, the Linger Longer Invitational, to compete on the Great Waters course at Reynolds. The Jackets sent their usual starting five, senior Christo Lamprecht, grad student Bartley Forrester, sophomore Hiroshi Tai, and freshmen Carson Kim and Kale Fontenot with an additional pair of individuals (sophomore Aidan Tran and senior Aidan Kramer). The field in Lake Oconee, Ga. was highlighted by archrival University of Georgia Bulldogs, ACC foe University of Virginia Cavaliers and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

Right out of the gate, the Crimson Tide blitzed the field by shooting a first round 267 (-21) to open up a nine shot lead on the second place team. While the Jackets played solidly, carding a team score of 280 (-8), they immediately found themselves in a deep hole if they wanted to take home the hardware. Leading the way for Tech was Tai shooting a 68 (-4) that was good enough to tie him for fourth heading into the second round. Shockingly, the score of Lamprecht, who had been the most successful Tech golfer all season, did not count in the opening round. 

Heading to round two, head coach Bruce Heppler and the team knew that another round of 280 (-8) would not be enough to dent an enormous Alabama lead. Unfortunately, the Jackets carded that exact score, and lost eight strokes to the Crimson Tide as they shot a 272 (-2). Despite the mediocre score, Tai continued to contend for the individual title firing another 4-under par round of 68 to move into solo second place. Tai would need a historic final round as he trailed the leader, Alabama’s Jonathan Griz by seven shots.

Sitting in fifth place as a team and trailing first place by a large margin, Tech was most likely out of the team title, but finishing ahead of rival Georgia was still on the cards. While the Jackets fired their worst team score of the week, a 286 (-2), it was still enough to move them to fourth place, but still behind the Bulldogs. Tai, who had led the team all week, shot a disappointing 75 (+3), while Lamprecht, who had performed poorly to his standards in the first two rounds, tied for the low final round with a 5-under 67. To much surprise, individuals Tran and Kramer finished their tournament at or better than all five of the Tech golfers counting for team score. 

After finishing fourth in the Linger Longer Invitational, the Jackets traveled back out west to play in The Goodwin at TPC Harding Park in the largest field of the year boasting over 30 collegiate teams. TPC Harding Park, located in the Bay Area, showed why it was the host of the 2020 PGA Championship, as the wide majority of collegiate players struggled to string together good rounds. In the first round, coach Heppler decided to keep the lineup identical to Linger Longer and the Jackets found themselves in seventh place, but only four shots behind the leaders. Fontenot was the only Jacket under par shooting a 1-under par 69. With a crowded leaderboard, the Jackets stood well within striking distance of a team title after round one. 

The second round was much of the same for the Jackets. Kim was the only one under par shooting a 69 (-1) and the team shot a 284 (+4), one worse than their performance a day prior. All that being said, despite being in sixth place the distance between them and the leaders only marginally grew and they were only five shots back heading into the final round. 

Both Kim and Lamprecht were tied for 18th heading into the final round. TPC Harding Park played close to two shots easier in the final round and the team scores showed. Four of the top five teams shot under par and with that, the Jackets one-under par round as a team was only just enough to crack into the top five. Forrester shot a 66 (-4) which was good for the round of the day and enough to tie him with Lamprecht for a t-11 finish. 

Following The Goodwin, the Jackets will compete in the Calusa Cup in Naples, Fla., and then head to Charlotte Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. for the ACC Championships. Notably, the Jackets will be without their star and number one amateur in the world for the Calusa Cup, as Lamprecht will be competing in The Masters after receiving an invitation from winning The Amateur Championship last summer. Still, despite Lamprechet’s absence, they were able to finish fourth at the Calusa Cup. Three Tech golfers finished among the top-20 with Forrester and Tran tying for 12th place in the individual standings.

Hopefully, the Jackets can gain some momentum in these events heading into the most important stretch of the year, NCAA Regionals and Nationals. Although their performance at the Linger Longer was not up to their usual standards, they showed signs of bouncing back in the Calusa Cup as they get ready for the critical stretch of the season.