Sept. 12, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– Luke Schniederjans turned his first college road trip into a victory celebration Sunday, when the Georgia Tech freshman won the Carpet Capital Collegiate in the first golf tournament of the school year.
It took a while for the Yellow Jackets to hit their stride as they fired a 13-under par 275 Sunday at the par-72 Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga., to move from 10th place into a tie with Florida for fifth in the first golf tournament of the school year.
It didn’t take Schniederjans long to match and surpass his oldest brother.
Ollie Schniederjans won the Carpet Capital Collegiate in 2013 and 2014 before graduating in 2015 and turning pro. Tech’s Jacob Joiner won the tournament last year. Neither won, however, in their first college outing.
Strange things were that Joiner, now a junior, didn’t qualify for the event this year, and because Luke was Tech’s sixth qualifier, he played as an individual, so his three-round total of 11-under par 205 did not factor in the team score.
“Yeah, honestly I wish I played for the team and the team had won,” he said calmly after firing a bogey-free round of 70 Sunday. “It wasn’t a surprise to me. It was just putting it all together. Putting it all together was cool.”
The Jackets put it all together in a big way Sunday, as all six shot rounds of par or better. Sophomore Tyler Joiner shot an eight-under par 64 in just the second competitive tournament of his college career. He tied for 25th in a field of 78.
Tech’s round of 275 was the lowest by any team in the three-day tournament, won by Virginia with a tournament-record score of 833 (31-under par).
The Jackets shot 286-295-275, and with the way Sunday went, head coach Bruce Heppler felt a whole lot better about his team’s eight-under par score of 856 than he did earlier in the weekend.
Senior Vincent Whaley, who was Tech’s top scorer last year, and Jacob Joiner, will try to qualify for the travel squad before the Jackets play next Sept. 23-25 at the Maui Jim Invitational in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The future looks bright after a 2015-16 season that produced no team victories for the first time since 2007-08.
“We weren’t very good for two days … to have it flip that dramatically, that’s when you’re starting to know you can play against really good teams. Guys don’t give in. You just walk in the door [Sunday] night, and think we’re going to be OK. They didn’t like last year any more than I did.”
Schniederjans, whose brother Ben is a pitcher for the Tech baseball team, had just four bogeys in three rounds on his way to edging Auburn’s Ryan Benton, Virginia’s Derek Bard and North Florida’s Phillip Knowles by one shot.
He played at The Farm a couple times while a student at Harrison High School, and that coupled with the fact that the course is similar to the East Lake Golf Club, where the Jackets practiced and qualified, prepared him.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said. “That was a big help for me, playing Zoysia grass [fairways and rough] and Bermuda greens. I think after today, the team saw that we have it in us. Tyler Joiner shot 64, so that’s going to help. Everybody just felt more comfortable, maybe.”
Schniederjans won’t have to qualify to play in the Maui Jim Invitational, as Heppler rewards all top 10 finishes with an exemption for the next tournament.
He was something of a late bloomer in high school, and didn’t take the same path to Tech as Ollie. He’s on the scene now, though, and he and the Jackets appear to be re-discovering their true golf DNA.
Not long ago, before Ollie returned to life on the Web.com Tour where he has earned a PGA Tour card for next season, they matched up at the Golf Club of Georgia.
Luke skinned his older brother. Perhaps that was an omen.
“He took him to the cleaners the Sunday after qualifying was over,” Heppler said. “They had a little family outing. Every time he does that, it’s all about believing. Ollie came in highly regarded, developed much faster than Luke in high school, and when he showed up he was a real man.
“Luke has grown four or five inches, and I’m taken aback by the amount of progress he’s made in the last 12 months. Some people may have thought that he was a charity case for his brother. A lot of it was betting on the fact that he would get bigger, stronger, and a lot of it was betting that he would have the same belief system as his two older brothers. We got lucky.”