Oct. 21, 2012
Alpharetta, Ga. – Ollie Schniederjans drained in a three-foot putt for an eagle on the 18th hole Sunday, lifting Georgia Tech to its second victory in three years at the United States Collegiate Championship at The Golf Club of Georgia.
The finish by Schniederjans, a sophomore from Powder Springs, Ga., completed a back-nine comeback that saw the 12th-ranked Yellow Jackets erase an 8-shot deficit to the 7th-ranked Bruins, giving Tech some redemption for its collapse a year ago, when the Jackets lost a seven-shot lead to UCLA at the turn and finished fourth.
Tech, which began the day two shots behind the Bruins, shot a 4-over-par 292 score for the round and completed 54 holes at 10-over 874, two strokes shy of the highest winning score in the seven-year history of the USCC. UCLA finished at 11-over 875. Fourth-ranked Southern California was third at 879, followed by Virginia at 880 and No. 24 Stanford at 881. Duke, Clemson, Washington, Auburn and Oklahoma State rounded out the top 10.
“We just could not make a birdie to save our lives, and at one point we were six or seven shots down,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “You just start to figure it’s not going to happen. But we hung and hung, and I guess they made some mistakes to come back a little bit. Ollie hit it to a foot on 16, and Anders made a birdie somewhere in there, to get us close again.”
Still, the Yellow Jackets appeared resigned to a runner-up finish when the Bruins’ Jake Knapp birdied the par 5 18th and Albertson parred, leaving the Yellow Jackets two shots behind with two groups yet to finish.
Meanwhile, Schniederjans had birdied 16 and escaped with a par at 17 after hitting his ball into a hazard. Reeves, playing in the group ahead of Schniederjans, made birdie at the par-5 18th after hitting his second shot behind the green and getting up and down, closing the gap to one shot.
“Seth three-putted 17 after hitting a great shot, but put that disappointment aside and stepped up at 18,” said Heppler. “Ollie hit his shot in the hazard at 17, but it stayed up, which was pretty fortunate. Then he hit an incredible 5-iron in there at 18 that’s about as good as it gets.”
With his tee shot in the middle of the fairway at 18, Schniederjans knew the score. A birdie would put Tech into a tie with UCLA, an eagle would give the Yellow Jackets a win. He pulled a 5-iron, and from 220 yards, hit his shot three feet from the cup. He knocked in the putt for the eagle and a round of 71 and the Yellow Jackets had a one-stroke win.
“I knew I needed birdie to tie and eagle to win,” said Schniederjans. “Knowing that and with all those people out there watching, the last group out there and everybody watching, that was the coolest hole I’ve ever played. I was in between clubs, and I went with the longer club because I wanted to hit a cut shot in there. I didn’t hit it exactly like I drew it up, but when I hit it, I knew it was going to end up perfect.”
Tech had finished 28 strokes ahead of the runner-up Bruins in 2010, and UCLA captured last year’s event after Tech had faded on the incoming nine.
Sunday’s rally gave Tech its second victory of the fall. After a disastrous 11th place finish at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, the Yellow Jackets were co-champions at the PING-Golfweek Preview Invitational with California, and event which had 14 top-25 teams in the field, finished second at the Brickyard Collegiate, and prevailed here this weekend against a field with 12 top-25 teams.
“California hasn’t lost yet, and we went tooth-and-nail with them at the Preview,” said Heppler. “We could have played better at the Brickyard, but overall I couldn’t expect much more. We’re still trying to figure out who we are and who the five best players on this team are. We have a pretty deep group of guys, and from day to day, it changes.”
Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers fired a 5-under-67, matching the best round of the day, and won medalist honors by four strokes with a 7-under-par tournament total of 209. Talor Gooch of Oklahoma State, Michael Johnson of Auburn and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Washington tied for second place at 3-under-par 213. Corey Connors of Kent State and Trevor Simsby of Washington were the only other players to complete 54 holes in red figures, finishing at 1-under 215.
“It’s a great feeling to win a tournament like this,” said Rodgers, who played in two PGA Tour events last summer, missing the cut at the Traveler’s and John Deere Classic. “Playing out here, with the difficulty of the golf course, the crowds, the skyboxes around the 18th green, it really is like playing in a PGA Tour event.”
Schniederjans finished in a tie for seventh place individually at 1-over 217, while Reeves tied for 13th at 219.
Two of Tech’s individuals posted top-20 finishes. Bo Andrews shot a 73 Sunday to finish the tournament at 2-over 218 and tied for ninth place, while freshman Shun Yat Hak wound up in a tie for 11th place at 219 after his closing 76.
The USCC is presented by Atlanta Classic Cars/Mercedes-Benz, Cisco, David Oakey Designs and AmeriFleet Transportation. The 54-hole tournament benefits the Folds of Honor Foundation and the GSGA Foundation.