Georgia Tech’s next golf great could be South African Christo Lamprecht

Georgia Tech golfer Christo Lamprecht at the NCAA regional tournament at Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla., May 17, 2021. (Mike Olivella)
Caption
Georgia Tech golfer Christo Lamprecht at the NCAA regional tournament at Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla., May 17, 2021. (Mike Olivella)

Credit: Mike Olivella

Credit: Mike Olivella

It was an August day in 2017, as Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler recalled. Christo Lamprecht was a promising young golfer from South Africa visiting Tech on a recruiting trip with his father, also named Christo.

Meeting the two at the Newnan Golf Facility, Heppler had an unlikely trick up his sleeve.

“Goeie middag,” Heppler said, breaking out an Afrikaans phrase of welcome. “Hoe gaan dit.”

Hearing his native language a mere 8,300 miles from home – Heppler offered greetings of “Good afternoon” and “How’s it going?” (pronounced “kh-oo-ee-uh m-uh-dah-kh” and “h-oo kh-ah-n d-uht,” respectively) – made an impression on Lamprecht.

“I was like, Wow, this is insane,” he said.

That was the start of a relationship that resulted in Lamprecht’s enrollment at Tech in January and has proved fruitful for both. In his first semester on campus, Lamprecht has ascended into the role of the Yellow Jackets’ No. 1 golfer, a freshman who can bomb it off the tee and can score with a deft short game. Heppler will be counting on Lamprecht to deliver this weekend as the Jackets begin play Friday in their 30th NCAA championship appearance in Scottsdale, Ariz., at Grayhawk Golf Club.

“I’m enjoying every bit of it,” Lamprecht told the AJC. “It’s been probably the best four months of my life so far. It’s definitely a great experience, and I’m very happy and proud to be at Georgia Tech.”

Heppler, whose knowledge of Afrikaans stems from his two-year mission to South Africa (where it’s one of 11 official languages) as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that Lamprecht can have a “phenomenal career” for Tech.

“I think he’ll be a leader,” Heppler said. “I think he’s got a really pleasant, kind of fun personality. I think people will gravitate to him. I think he can do a lot for our program over the next three years, just on a daily basis.”

The son of an accountant father and a housewife mother, Lamprecht grew up playing a variety of sports in George, South Africa, including tennis, cricket, rugby and golf – he even played on a South African junior-national tennis team – but chose to pursue golf early in high school. As he progressed, he made a goal of playing college golf in the U.S. Undoubtedly, achievements such as becoming the youngest player to win the South African Amateur (in 2017) made the attraction mutual. Lamprecht was won over to Tech by the combination of the school’s academic prowess (he’s an economics major) and Heppler.

“I was stunned by coach Bruce and how amazing a person and human being he is, and how great of a coach he is,” Lamprecht said.

He arrived in December after missing the fall semester because of visa issues related to COVID-19. He has felt the distance from home at times, such as when teammates were able to drive home for Mother’s Day. But, as he noted, he has enjoyed his time thus far. He likes being in a city environment, likes Tech’s campus and has developed a taste for Chick-fil-A. He likes his teammates, too.

“There’s no group I’d rather play with than them,” he said. “Since I’ve gotten here, they’ve kind of let me in and let me be part of the group straight away. It’s been a real nice experience for me since being here.”

Likely all has contributed to his feeling comfortable on the course. After struggling in his first event, he has shot below par in 13 of his past 21 rounds. His 71.42 stroke average is tied for 90th nationally, but it’s an even 70 for his past two tournaments, the ACC championship (tied for 15th at 1 over par) and the NCAA regional (tied for fifth at 7 under).

“Just coming up here and playing a lot of competitive golf and not being scared and kind of adapting really well has been a big achievement for me, I think, personally,” he said.

Adaptability would seem a strength of his. Lamprecht has excelled while playing with a body type highly unusual for the sport. Lamprecht stands 6-foot-8, the tallest on the team by four inches. Eight of his nine teammates are 6-2 or shorter.

Extreme height such as Lamprecht’s doesn’t typically lend itself to golfing at the highest levels. One explanation for the scarcity of taller players is that shorter players, with shorter swings, have an easier time striking the ball consistently than do taller players.

The advantage, though, is that with a clubhead traveling in a wider arc, Lamprecht also can generate greater clubhead speed than his more earth-bound competitors. Lamprecht averages about 320 yards off the tee, Heppler said, about 20 yards ahead of the team average.

“The nice part about it is that I can definitely hit it further than most people,” Lamprecht said. “But that’s the main challenge, to always be trying to keep it under control, keep it in an area where I can play scoring golf and not make big mistakes,” he said. “That’s always been, for me, a difficult part.”

He plays with golf shafts about 1½ inches longer than standard and that are heavier, creating greater force.

“A lot of people grab my club, and they’re like, Oh, wow,” Lamprecht said.

He has managed to excel even as he has continued to grow, necessitating equipment adjustments multiple times a year. He is hopeful that he has topped out at 6-8.

Beyond that, Heppler has been overwhelmed by Lamprecht’s ability around the green. It bears mention that Heppler has coached no fewer than 20 All-Americans, so his standards are high, even for someone who’s 6-8.

“He’s hit some bunker shots that I hadn’t seen in a long time,” Heppler said. “His short game is as good as anyone who’s come in the door, and that’s saying a lot. To be able to hit it that far and to be able to finish the hole the way he does, he’s got a very bright future.”