Van de Velde; Heppler to Coach Palmer Cup Teams
LAS VEGAS – Former Ryder Cup player Jean Van de Velde and Bruce Heppler will serve as coaches of the European and United States Palmer Cup teams, respectively, at Rich Harvest Farms. The annual Ryder Cup-style competition will be played June 12-14.
Van de Velde won the French amateur championship in 1986 and represented France in the World Team Amateur and the Continent against GB&I in the St. Andrews Trophy later that year. He launched his professional career in 1987. Van de Velde claimed his first European Tour event at the Roma Masters in 1993. In 1999, Van de Velde finished runner-up at The Open Championship and became the first French player to qualify for the Ryder Cup.
After injuring his knee skiing and undergoing two surgical reconstructions, it was feared Van de Velde may not play again. However, he regained his card in 2005 by virtue of his second-place finish at the Open de France and earned an emotional victory at the Madeira Island Open in 2006 for his final win on the European Tour.
In addition to his appearances in the Ryder Cup, World Team Amateur and St. Andrews Trophy, Van de Velde represented France in 12 World Cups. He helped lead the Continent to victory over GB&I at the 2000 Seve Cup and Van de Velde captained at the 2011 event.
Van de Velde will also serve as Team Europe’s head coach for the 2016 Palmer Cup at Formby Golf Club on England’s Golf Coast.
“I feel very honored to have been appointed coach of the European Team of the Palmer Cup,” said Van de Velde. “It is a privilege, as well as a responsibility, to try guiding some of tomorrow’s future stars of the game. I hope that everyone involved with Team Europe will continue the successes our predecessors established. It is a big task, but we will try our utmost best, in doing so prolonging the values of our wonderful sport.”
This will be the second stint as head coach of the United States Palmer Cup team for Heppler. The Georgia Tech head coach was the first American Palmer Cup coach to face a team composed of European Players when the event was held at Cassique in 2003.
Heppler has guided the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Championship every year since 1998, and helped author 11 top-8 finishes in the Finals, including three runner-up showings. Tech is currently on a run unprecedented in school history - seven Atlantic Coast Conference titles in the last nine years and four trips to match play at the NCAA Championship in the last five.
During his tenure, Tech has won or shared 10 Atlantic Coast Conference titles. Only two ACC coaches have led their teams to more ACC titles than has Heppler. The Yellow Jackets have captured or shared 44 team titles overall. He was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2014 for the eighth time, more than any coach in ACC history except one, and was a finalist for the GCAA’s Dave Williams national coach of the year award.
Since 2000, the Yellow Jackets have finished in the top 10 of the final Golfstat rankings 11 times, and in the final Golfweek/Sagarin top 10 twelve times. Tech has not finished lower than 14th in either ranking in any year.
Heppler has recruited and developed his share of star players as well. The Yellow Jackets have had at least a pair of All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorees in 16 of the last 17 years, and landed four members of the team on the squad twice (2005, 2011). Tech has had at least two players earn All-America honors 14 of the last 16 years, and Ollie Schniederjans became the Jackets’ 20th first-team selection in 2014. Three of his players, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder and Troy Matteson, have been named national players of the year.
His players have been just as successful in the classroom. Tech’s golf program has been recognized with a perfect Academic Progress Report score of 1000 for eight straight years, and every senior has graduated. Twelve different players under Heppler have been named All-America Scholars by the GCAA. Molder and Roberto Castro, have received the NCAA’s Top VIII Award, an honor given to eight student-athletes from all sports each year and recognizes those who excel in their sport and in the classroom, and exhibit high character, leadership and service to others. Three Georgia Tech golfers, Matteson, Castro and James White, have been honored with the Byron Nelson Award presented by Cleveland Golf/Srixon.
Heppler was a 2013 inductee to the GCAA Hall of Fame and serves as the Association’s treasurer.
“I am certainly honored to be selected as part of this year’s Palmer Cup,” said Heppler. “Any time you get a chance to represent your country and peers in any form it becomes a special opportunity. I know Rich Harvest Farms is committed to having a great event for these great players. I’m looking forward to a great week for these special players.”
The United States leads the Palmer Cup series 9-8-1.