Until the fall semester, Christo Lamprecht can leave worries of homework and exams behind. A Georgia Tech junior and business administration major who has handled classwork well enough to be named an All-American scholar, Lamprecht had a particularly tricky class this term on financial derivatives as he played his way to All-ACC status on the golf course. (Derivatives are defined as “complex financial contracts based on the value of an underlying asset, group of assets or benchmark.”)
“It’s just a bunch of financial stuff,” Lamprecht said. “But a lot of questions and figuring out how to make as much money as you possibly can.”
He got a B in the class.
“Mom would probably say it’s OK,” Lamprecht said. “Dad would probably want me to do a little better.”
Thankfully for Lamprecht, it’s in the past, and he and his teammates are free for what is a perennial May occurrence – a high-ranked Yellow Jackets team pursuing NCAA hardware, principally its first-ever national championship. After claiming its 19th ACC championship in late April, No. 11 Tech will start play Monday in an NCAA regional in Salem, South Carolina, with an eye to advancing to the national championship, which starts May 26 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Coach Bruce Heppler’s team, easily the most successful on Tech’s campus, is in the regional round for the 25th year in a row and 32nd time in 34 years. The top five teams in the 14-team regional make it to the NCAA finals.
The ACC title was the Jackets’ first tournament win of the year – low by their standards, though they’ve finished second or tied for second five times in nine events. But Heppler said that this team might be as deep as any team he has had, from first through seventh player, since the 2000 team that took second in the national championship, losing in a playoff.
“They have as good a chance as any team we’ve had here,” Heppler said.
Lamprecht’s play is critical to the mission. Since returning from his native South Africa from winter break, Lamprecht has been a model of consistency, with five top-10 finishes in as many events. He also won a tournament in the fall season. It earned him All-ACC honors Thursday, along with teammates Connor Howe and Ross Steelman.
“Obviously, I’ve got my aspirations of being successful as I can be and stepping out on the golf course and trying to beat everybody every single day, but I guess trying to be better every single day is kind of a big thing for me,” Lamprecht said.
Lamprecht has arrived at this approach over time. Standing 6-foot-8, Lamprecht utilizes his long levers to generate uncommon swing speed and force. He can pump drives 320 yards down the fairway, a distance that plenty of PGA Tour players would envy and that enables him to hit much shorter shots to the green than his competition. With that advantage, Heppler said that Lamprecht had a tendency to coast with his practice habits when his game was on. At the end of the fall semester, Heppler and assistant coach Devin Stanton challenged him on it.
“I think Devin’s message was as much like, when (Lamprecht) kind of gets hitting it good, then we may not see him for two or three days because he’s kind of got it,” Heppler said. “That doesn’t work. So just the idea of being a little more consistent. Maybe you don’t need to come out here and kill yourself for four or five hours every day, but you need to touch every part of your deal more often.”
Heppler particularly wanted Lamprecht to become more consistent with his wedge play, honing the distance control on shots into the green, to best take advantage of his distance off the tee. Lamprecht has obvious talent – he was a third-team All-American as a sophomore – but had the capacity for more. Heppler was dismayed, for instance, by Lamprecht finishing in a tie for 44th at a tournament in September where he had finished second the year before.
“With your skill set, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do in college golf, 15th should be your worst finish,” Heppler said.
Lamprecht recognized that he “kind of slacked” (his words) at times and then overworked when his game wasn’t sharp.
The message was received. Working with volunteer coach Jeff Paton (also a coach to touring players), Lamprecht developed consistency in his ball flight and spin.
“Kind of having that stock shot that consistently comes out with wedges,” he said.
In his first tournament of the spring – at the Watersound Invitational in Panama City, Florida, in February – Lamprecht recalled hitting 15 or 20 wedge shots in the 72-hole tournament to within three feet of the hole. He finished in a tie for second at 13 under par.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is making golf a lot easier for me,’” Lamprecht said.
Another change he tried to incorporate has been to focus less on results and more on process.
“I get in my own head, and I want to do so well that I put so much pressure on myself,” he said.
He has the acronym “CWYC” – control what you can – written in ink on his golf glove.
“And that’s kind of part of my routine of every single shot – what can I do here, what can I control, what can I do better – instead of getting kind of carried away in the moment,” he said.
In the four tournaments since Watersound, he has finished second and tied for second in competitive fields. He ranks eighth nationally by Golfstat and 10th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Provided Tech makes it to the NCAA finals – or Lamprecht makes it there individually – Heppler believes he has the game to win it, an honor that would merit him an invitation to the U.S. Open in June and to the Masters in April.
“He can win at any time,” Heppler said.
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