Georgia Tech wins ACC title
Yellow Jackets finish 1-2-3 in the individual standings
NEW LONDON, N.C. – Paul Haley birdied the final hole to complete a final-round 70 and win medalist honors, while three of his teammates broke 70 to help Georgia Tech post a 16-under-par round of 272 and capture its third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference golf championship.
In winning the conference title for the fifth time in six years, the 4th-ranked Yellow Jackets got a 6-under-par 66 from John-Tyler Griffin and 68s from Kyle Scott and James White as Tech completed 54 holes on the Old North State Club in 831 strokes, 33 under par and a tournament record for the ACC Championship.
Haley, Scott and Griffin finished 1-2-3 in the individual standings for the second consecutive event, duplicating their finishes in last week’s Yellow Jacket Classic, while White tied for eighth to give Tech four players inside the top 10 for only the second time ever.
“The course has been great, but you have to play well,” said head coach Bruce Heppler, who has guided Tech to eight of its 13 ACC titles. “That’s some of the best golf we’ve ever played. Duke was 13-under-par, which is an outstanding score. I couldn’t be more thrilled for these guys and how they played this weekend. For those three seniors (Haley, Scott and Griffin) to finish 1-2-3 and graduate in 10 days, that’s as good as it gets.”
Haley, who had shot 68-68 the first two rounds, stayed steady Sunday and went to the final hole, a par 5, tied with teammate Kyle Scott for first place. The senior from Dallas, Texas rolled in a 10-foot putt for his third birdie of the day to capture a one-stroke victory and become eighth ACC individual champion. His two career ACC Championship appearances have resulted in a tie for fourth and a title.
“It was a pretty easy putt, a little down hill on the right edge,” said Haley. “I knew if I just got it started it would be good. I was little nervous, but I was able to stroke it in. I rolled it well all week. The greens are pretty fast and pretty tough. It feels really great to win here. It was a lot of fun coming down here. It’s my last time as a senior, and I thought I played really well.”
Haley finished with a 54-hole total of 10-under-par 206, followed by Scott at 9-under 207. Scott had five birdies and a bogey on his card Sunday, and had an eagle attempt find the edge of the cup on 18 but stay out.
Griffin, from nearby Wilson, N.C., had four birdies and an eagle on his card Sunday and finished in a tie for third with Julian Suri (69 Sunday) at 7-under 209. White had a 3-under-par total of 213 to tie with Virginia’s Ben Kohles. Freshman Richard Werenski shot 75 Sunday and wound up tied for 21st place at 2-over 218.
Haley joins a list of ACC champions that includes Bob McDonnell, David Duval (twice), Mikko Rantanen, Bryce Molder, Cameron Tringale and Chesson Hadley (last year). The senior won his second straight tournament and posted his fifth top-10 finish this year. On the heels of his 3-1 record in the Callaway Collegiate Match Play last month, Haley has played his last five stroke-play rounds in 15-under-par.
“I’ve worked really hard in my short game the past two months and less so on my long game,” he said. “The minute I did that, I’ve hit it better and my scores have come down.”
Heppler concurred, saying, “You watch how hard it is to close out an event on tour, and he just did what he had to do. It’s great to see his confidence just grow. It just breeds more.”
Tech began the day at 17 under par for the tournament and nearly doubled that. The Yellow Jackets began with a nine-stroke lead over Duke and more than doubled that, beating their previous high for margin of victory (13 shots last year) by seven.
The Blue Devils finished at 13-under-par 851, followed by Clemson (3-under 861) and Virginia (even-par 864). Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College finished 5 through 11.
The four Yellow Jacket counters on Sunday accounted for 16 birdies, two eagles and just four bogeys in 72 holes of play. Each of them birdied the final hole Sunday after recording only four total in the first two rounds. Tech had scored better than its 272 Sunday only once before (267 in the second round in 2006).
Tech’s ACC title comes with an automatic berth in the NCAA Championship, which will be the 23rd appearance for the Yellow Jackets since 1985. The field for the six NCAA regional tournaments will be announced May 9.