June 24, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– The way it looks, playing in a professional event apparently is no big thing for Georgia Tech golfers. Ollie Schniederjans made it look pretty easy last weekend, despite his non-professional status.
Rising toward his senior year at Tech, he took advantage of an exemption into the Web.com Tour’s Air Capital Classic and – as the only amateur in the field – tied for fifth place Sunday in Wichita, Kan.
Schniederjans recently rose to become the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world, according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings, and he had little problem keeping up with professionals. He really took advantage of the Crestview Country Club with a scorecard that read 64-71-65-67.
His 13-under par total made him look to be at home among pros, although he said there was a different feel to everything.
“There were a lot more people and fans,” Schniederjans said. “It was like a circus out there compared to college golf. It’s awesome; it’s so much fun.”
The Web.com tour is pro golf’s equivalent to AAA baseball, the last stop before the Big Time, and Ollie darn near aced the deal.
As a matter of fact, he did ace the par-3 eighth on Sunday. His six iron was true from 197 yards.
He earned an exemption into the Air Capital Classic last fall when he finished as medalist at the U.S. Collegiate Championship.
But for a rough start on Friday, when he bogeyed four of his first eight holes, Schniederjans might have finished higher still. He wound up with a one-over par 71.
“I just had a bad nine holes. Everything went wrong could go wrong,” he said. “My game was fine. I missed a couple putts … but then I came back on the back nine to save myself.”
Schniederjans made himself feel at home in more than one way in Kansas. His roommate out there was former Alabama standout Justin Thomas, a good friend.
Ollie made the decision last month to return to Tech for his senior season, and that was not easy. Several of his peers, including former University of Texas standout-turned-PGA-star Jordan Spieth, are finding success as pros after leaving school early.
Some of these guys are making it look easy to go pro.
Richard Werenski, who played alongside Schniederjans at Tech, has won his first two professional events after last week capturing the Vermont Open.
The winner at the Air Capital Classic was green, too. Sebastian Cappelen, a 24-year-old rookie from Denmark, qualified for the tournament by first winning a qualifier on Monday.
He just finished his college career last month after playing for Arkansas. His caddie was his girlfriend.
Schniederjans, 21, didn’t take much time to reflect after playing so well in Wichita.
By mid-day on Monday, he was at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to catch a flight to England. He’s going to play for the U.S. vs. Europe in the Palmer Cup at Walton Heath Golf Club.
Jetting around is no big thing; Schniederjans competed last winter in Australia as an unattached amateur, and his Tech travels last season included trips to Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas among other stops.
“It just comes with the territory,” he said by phone while waiting to catch his flight. “I don’t know any other way to do it. Obviously, you would rather not have an eight-hour flight, but that’s part of playing competitive golf.”
Ho-hum; no big deal.
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