Jan. 30, 2012
By Jon Cooper
How’s this for living the good life?
You’re 18 years old, have earned a spot on the starting five for one of the nation’s perennial golf powerhouse, and are getting an education at a world-renowned university.
Let’s sweeten the pot by having you team with one of the state’s best young players who is a good friend, used to be a rival and has also earned a starting position?
For good measure, the first event you get to play this season is an elite tournament in Hawai’i.
Welcome to the life of freshmen Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans.
The duo will be making their 2012 Georgia Tech debuts on Wednesday, at the Amer Ari Invitational, being played Wednesday through Friday at the Mauna Lani North Course in Kohala Coast, Hawai’i.
“We beat each other up for a couple of years in junior golf. It’s definitely nice to have him on my side,” said Albertson, who was ranked No. 3 among junior golfers in Georgia in 2010 (he was 34th the nation) coming out of Etowah High School in Woodstock, Ga. “Ollie and I are playing really well and we’re very excited to be on the team and hopefully contribute to a good effort over there.”
Schniederjans is as thrilled to be united with Albertson, even if he remembers the rivalry a little differently — and a little more painfully.
“We’ve known each other for a long time. We were pretty good rivals when we were real little,” said the 2010 first-team All-American according to the American Junior Golf Association and fourth-ranked player in the nation while starring at Harrison High School in Kennesaw. “I remember when we were about 13, 14. I was just starting and he was really, really good, he would always beat me. I finished second a lot. But our last year of [junior] I beat him and that was really cool. But we’ve been competing since we were little.
“Anders and I both had high expectations coming in,” he added. “We both are trying to be the best on the team and trying to do our best to help out the rest of the guys by pushing them and working hard. We’re both excited to go to Hawai’i. We’ve been looking forward to it for a while.”
Both enrolled last spring but sat that season, starting play in the fall. Georgia Tech head coach Bruce Heppler believes that the experience they gained that spring just getting acclimated to college will pay off handsomely in getting acclimated to college golf this spring.
“We felt it would be beneficial for the new guys to give them the chance to succeed right away. That was to leave high school early and come down here and do a semester,” Heppler said. “They really have been impactful from the first day they got here. Both of them played in our very first tournament in the fall and did really well. So they’ve been pushing and part of it ever since August.”
So far they have complemented each other in school and on the course.
“It’s awesome,” said Schniederjans, who also was a high school teammate of current Tech senior captain James White. “We pretty much have every class together as well so we’re both pushing each other all the time. We’re very competitive but we’re there to help each other as much as to beat each other.”
The freshmen, who, coincidentally, were born one week apart — Albertson was born June 8, 1993, Schniederjans, June 15 — are eager to get the new season going, building off their fall seasons. The fall saw Albertson finish with a No. 35 ranking (he’d rank as high as 16), with a 71.7 strokes per round average, while Schniederjans wasn’t far behind stroke-wise at 73.7.
Heppler hopes his two talented freshmen can continue to push each other, while helping advance the program, much the way it did for Yellow Jackets alumni and current PGA stars Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder a little more than a decade ago.
“They are both very driven guys. That was part of the recruiting pitch, was come here with another really good player and as you push each other and work harder,” Heppler said. “I think that was a benefit to Matt (Kuchar) and Bryce (Molder) to be on the same team together because you constantly were working to be the best player on your team and luckily you had arguably the best player in the country on your team. So if you could get past him or have some success there, it’s a real confidence builder. Yes, they’ve known each other for a long time and have competed and push each other pretty hard in the right way.”
Neither Albertson nor Schniederjans is thinking about being the next Kuchar and Molder.
“I really just want to get better at everything,” Schniederjans said. “I’ve really been working on my putting trying to get to the point that I can be a great putter all the time. I’ve had my stages of great putting and my stages of great ball-striking. I’m trying to put it all together mentally and just trying to put my game together.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of wedges and short-game stuff,” said Albertson. “We’ve always got some kind of competition going on. So we’re just getting better every day. Everybody’s been doing really well. Hawai’i is going to be a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to going over there.”