#TGW: Back on Top

April 28, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Looking back on the warm and fuzzy memories of Georgia Tech’s golf team winning the ACC title, it seems clear that the experience came to be heightened by some of the anxiety that preceded the tournament in New London, N.C.

There were many grand moments.

Junior Ollie Schniederjans fired rounds of 65-70-69 for a 12-under par score of 204 that made him the fourth Tech golfer in five years to take ACC medalist honors – by five strokes! That 7-under 65 on a blustery Friday was enormously important as the rest of his team went over par on the first day.

He is the first Tech golfer to win five tournaments in a season. More later this week on him, whadya say?

Also, last year’s ACC medalist, junior Anders Albertson, rallied from an opening 76 to go 68-65 and finish in a tie for runner up.

That was good stuff, too?

Add the facts that senior Seth Reeves tied for seventh in his first and only ACC Tournament, that senior Bo Andrews counted on Friday and Sunday, and senior Richard Werenski rallied from an opening 77 to go 71-72 and count on Saturday and good times were had by all – eventually.

As the Jackets sat around in the clubhouse at the Old North State Club with a big trophy in the middle of the table and friends and family gathered around, there was, frankly, a sense of relief.

Tech kind of piddled away the title last season, and yet was back in the position of favorite.

The Jackets are the monster that keeps stomping the ACC, yet frittered away the championship last season down the back side on the final day.

Bottom line, though, Tech has won this thing seven of the last nine years, and their league mates are annoyed about that.

“You get that feeling more when you get there, like there is a target on your back,” Andrews said Monday as he took a break from filming an ACC All-Access segment for Fox Sports South. “They don’t say it to your face, but you can feel it in the way people look at you.”

Playing up to monster level, to surrounding expectations, is no walk in the park.

The Jackets were favored going in, as they often are, but weather whipped up on the Friday backside and Techsters other than Schniederjans went a combined 15-over par on the final nine. Not good.

Florida State started in the group ahead of Tech and was less affected by weather than the Jackets, Virginia and Virginia Tech. The Seminoles made it to the clubhouse with a four-under-par 284.

That the Jackets finished even-par 288 was rather impressive. Schniederjans went four-under on the back under the very conditions that trashed all others.

Tech golfers other than Ollie would card rounds of five-over par, four-over, two-over and one-over.

Heppler walked along side and after watching Schniederjans bank five pars and four birdies on the back, the coach figured that as rounds of golf go, it was among the very best he’d, “ever seen based on the conditions … at 18, he chips to two feet. His ball-striking into the wind, it just never touched his ball.

“If he shoots even par, we’re 11 back.”

Tech covered the four-stroke deficit to the Seminoles on Saturday, and added two as every Jacket fired par or better. They counted Albertson’s 68, Reeves’ 69, Schniederjans’ 70 and Werenski’s 71.

At times Sunday, the Jackets led by as many as 10.

Albertson was stroking deluxe. That was a big deal, as he’d entered the tournament after something of a wildcard with an erratic spring behind him.

He had three top five finishes in the fall, but entered the ACCs with spring finishes of ties for 74th, sixth, 74th, 53rd and 20th.

Dude found his game Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s hard for them not to focus on themselves. Other than Ollie, no one was going to win individually. So, Anders, how was he going to get over his 76?” Heppler said Monday. “That’s something you have to work at, to focus on the whole [team].

“When you get an older group that understands that, then there’s a lot of hanging in there and not dropping your [heads].”

These Jackets are good at not dropping their heads. Aside from their trip to Las Vegas, a disaster that might’ve prompted fear, loathing and self-doubt while rocking less seasoned groups, Tech has rolled.

In their other nine tournaments over the fall and spring, they won five and finished second three times. They also won a match-play event.

Tech has won or shared 15 ACC golf titles, which is great, except for the fact that their dominance in winning seven of the past nine – all at Old North State — drives the rest of the league nuts.

“You hear about other coaches talking about moving the tournament, but the course is really set up for the best team to win,” Reeves said. “We were the highest ranked team; we were the best team.”

That was proven.

Tech finished six strokes ahead of FSU and 12 ahead of Clemson.

After the Jackets lost their grip in foul weather in the final round in 2013, they survived foul weather in the first round this season to re-take theirs.

“I guess sometimes that you can be a big enough favorite that it just turns into a relief [to win],” Heppler said. “It doesn’t get old, for sure, and every one is different because there are different people involved … You don’t want to let too many years get away to where you turn it into a habit of not winning.

“For me, there was some pressure there because next year you lose your three seniors. I think Florida State returns maybe everybody, Clemson returns everybody … so when you’re good, you need to stack those up.”

Sunday at Old North State, the Jackets relished their latest hardware.

“It was really refreshing, extremely nice,” Andrews said. “We got to hang out and take pictures with family and friends who came to support us. We did pictures with seniors: me, Seth and Richy, we ate a late lunch and put the trophy on the table with lake in the background … it was just a lot of good positive vibes.”

Reeves said, “We know the ACC tournament is really important to Coach, and to win it for him again was special. It was pretty awesome for me. I’ve had an up and down journey through my college career, and it always led me to miss ACCs.

“To be able to go out and play pretty well individually and count every day for the team, and to be a big part of us winning as a team was pretty special. I was glad my parents were there to see it.”

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