- Monroe Invitational photo
By Rick Woelfel for AmateurGolf.com
Andy Ogletree faced an abundance of challenges at the Monroe Invitational. After the opening round was played in idyllic conditions, the field was confronted by wind and rain for the rest of the week that had them playing, in some respects, a different golf course.
But Ogletree was undaunted. The Georgia Tech senior-to be passed the examination with distinction, scoring a two-stroke victory in the 79th edition of the MIC. He bettered par by a shot at 279.
It was his fourth visit to Monroe Golf Club. He tied for third here a year ago and finished seventh in 2017.
This time around, Ogletree started the final round with a two-shot cushion over Agustin Segunda Olivia Pinto and a determination to play smart strategic golf.
"When the wind is that strong, you just have to play a little smarter I guess," he said. "I think the first couple days I might have gotten a little too aggressive, just trying to make birdies out here. You don't have to do that, you don't have to chase birdies."
"After the first two days, I think I realized I was kept putting myself in bad spots, and it was costing me. I wasn't making the birdies that I was chasing, so it was kind of pointless."
Over the course of the final 36 holes, Ogletree focused on keeping the ball below the hole. "If you were above the hole downwind it was absolutely impossible," he said. "We had guests of 35-40 miles per hour. It was blowing bags over. People were hitting nine and eight irons from 210 yards."
Ogletree played his first nine holes on Saturday in 2-under par 33 and was seemingly in control of the tournament until some misadventures with the lip of a fairway bunker at the par-5 12th led to a double bogey. He three-putted from 60 feet at the par-3 13th and made bogey but was never in serious danger of losing his lead. He finished the day with an even-par 70.
"I think 12 was my only hiccup today," he said. "It wound up making the tournament a lot closer than it should have been."
After four visits, Ogletree is a fan of the Donald Ross design at Monroe Golf Club. "During summer golf I like to play a little bit everywhere," he said. "Just because I think it's fun to travel and see new places, but the first time I came up here I just loved the place. The golf course is really good and I'm playing in the Northeast next week and it's a very similar course so I feel like this is a good tune up for the Northeast and a good place to get ready."
A native of Little Rock, Mississippi, Ogletree was making putts on a Putt-Putt course at age 3 and soon after that was gifted by his father with a cut-down seven iron. He played in his first tournament when he was not quite five and competed in the U.S. Kids Worlds at six.
While Ogletree had some talent for golf he played basketball and football until he reached 10th grade and decided to focus on golf.
"I think kids should play every sport," he said. "I don't see why not. You only get to do high-school sports once. You might as well play them all and enjoy it. I couldn't imagine if I just played golf forever. I don't think that would be ideal."
Throughout his golfing life, Ogletree has been regarded as a long hitter but midway through this past college season, he and Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler met for lunch and talked about Ogletree's short game.
"He basically told me he thinks I hit the ball good enough to play the game for a long time," Ogletree said, "and play at a really high level but we both kind of agreed my short game wasn't where it needed to be, that I needed to just keep working on it and clean up a few things, and if I could save two or three strokes a tournament I'd go from a pretty good year to a great year."
The work paid off; Ogletree the Yellow Jackets win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and qualify for the NCAA championship. Ogletree himself was second by a shot at the ACC championship. He also tied for 12th at the Pullman Regional.
Ogletree is on track to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in Business Administration. But he's also thinking about a future in professional golf.
"I'm going to turn pro next year," he said. "I don't know when but sometime after the national championship."