Wake’s Lee Bedford finishes second individually
By DAVID DROSCHAK
Bo Andrews knew he was joining a winning golf program in Atlanta a few years ago after a stellar prep career at Raleigh Ravenscroft. However, he may not have banked on this much success.
The sophomore was one of four Georgia Tech underclassmen who finished seventh or better in the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship, helping the Yellow Jackets to their fourth straight team crown, and sixth in seven seasons.
Andrews birdied the final hole in cold, rainy and windy conditions to finish at 5-under for the 54-hole event at Old North State Club, trying teammates Ollie Schniederjans and Richy Werenski for seventh place, while freshman Anders Albertson placed fourth in the wire-to-wire victory by Georgia Tech.
“It never gets old because it’s different people every time; I am the only constant,” said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “We got ahead the first day and there was a lot of pressure on us but we handled it for the most part.”
“It was tough with the weather, but that’s why we practice and work out hard, and do all those other things so we can live for a day like this,” Andrews said of the championship. “We put ourselves in a position to make it as tough as possible for the opponents.”
Andrews helped make it a great tournament for former Triangle-area prep stars. Wake Forest senior Lee Bedford, a former golfer at Cary Christian, placed second at 9-under, while Virginia senior Ben Kohles of Green Hope tied for 12th after an opening-round 67.
Andrews’ birdie on the par-5 18th hole, in which he blasted out of a bunker and sank a 15-footer, helped ward off a charging Cavalier team as the Yellow Jackets won by seven shots, shooting a combined 27-under.
“Bo has grown so much, he has spent so much time in the weight room, and he has added 40-50 yards on his tee ball. He’s just a different guy now,” Heppler said. “We’re trying to get him to move ahead and see himself for who he is now and not who he was in high school.
“I’m so proud of him because probably a year ago he lays the ball up and makes a 5, instead he went ahead and tried to knock it on the green, and got it out of there and birdied the last hole, so that’s the kind of attitude change we’ve seen with Bo. He’s already been one of the finest young men I’ve ever met and I’ve had some really fine guys. He’s special.”
Meanwhile, Virginia’s Ben Rusch, a sophomore from Switzerland, carded birdies on four of five holes in the middle of his final round during a driving rainstorm and became the unlikely individual winner and Virginia’s first champion since 1955.
Rusch had broken 70 just four times this season in 24 previous rounds. And he was two off the 36-hole lead after rounds of 67 and 70 before going on a birdie binge on holes 8, 10, 11 and 12 to close with a final-round 69 for a 10-under total, beating Bedford by one shot.
Rusch was still looking at his trembling hands 15 minutes after his final putt hit the bottom of the cup.
“I was really nervous. I’ve been in these situations before and it never really ended up like this. On the 18th hole I just tried to stay dry,” he said, referring to the approach shot over water on the risk-reward par-5.
The Yellow Jackets started the final round with an 11-shot lead over the Cavaliers, and Virginia pulled within four shots at the turn, but poor weather conditions weren’t favorable for a comeback.
It turned out the 10th hole was Virginia’s downfall. Rusch got a birdie there, but the other players on the team recorded three double bogeys and one triple.
“We had our backs against the wall to start the day,” said Virginia senior Bruce Woodall of Yanceyville. “We kind of like it when the odds are stacked against us and we were pretty confident we could chip away at the lead, and we did, and then we had a bad 10th hole.”
Bedford, who finished sixth here as a freshman in 2009, started the day tied for second and one behind second-round leader Werenski of Georgia Tech after carding rounds of 67 (matching a season low) and 69.
Bedford bogeyed the par-3 third hole for the second day in a row, but regrouped in deteriorating weather conditions to close with a 71 and 9-under-par total 207. Bedford had an opportunity for birdies on the final two holes, but left both putts, which appeared headed into the hole, short.
“I knew the weather was going to be tough, but I also knew I was behind and had to play a solid round of golf,” said Bedford, who entered the ACC Championship with the seventh-best career scoring average (72.94) at Wake Forest since 1980. “I was able to get out and post a number. This is one of my favorite golf courses. It has been fun for four years and it’s sad to see it go.”
Virginia freshman Ji Soo Park provided some excitement when he started off his final round with two birdies and a hole-in-one, but followed his ace with a double-bogey and closed with a 74.
Meanwhile, the tournament wasn’t exactly a building block heading into the NCAAs for the Big Four schools as Duke finished sixth, North Carolina seventh, Wake Forest eighth and NC State ninth – the Wolfpack’s worst team result since the ACC expanded in 2005.