Oct. 21, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Bruce Heppler does not stop at this point and put a grade on how the fall golf season went, so even though it’s over and No. 2 Georgia Tech has in the bank two tournament wins and two runner-up finishes, the head coach is not looking back, but forward instead.
The same goes for junior Ollie Schniederjans, whose win Sunday in the United States Collegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Georgia was his second of the fall. That left the Jackets 4-for-4 in the autumn as senior Seth Reeves also won twice, yet there are fancier trophies on everyone’s minds.
“We did everything we could, but we’ve got bigger and better things ahead. We won [the USCC] last year, but we didn’t win the ACC championship or the national championship,” Schniederjans said. “We were a few strokes away from a perfect fall.
“I almost had a perfect fall as well. The experiences that we had of being in the lead or close to the lead every day will be valuable. I held the 36-hole lead in three of the four events.”
Heppler may not be ready to evaluate his team as a whole, but he’s taking stock in individuals. There, the Yellow Jackets are decidedly in blue-chip territory and poised to make a run at the spring tournaments that will matter far more than all others: the ACC and NCAA championships.
Talk about steady earners: the Jackets ran the same five golfers out in all four events in juniors Schniederjans and Anderson Albertson and seniors Reeves, Bo Andrews and Richy Werenski.
Schniederjans also tied for medalist honors in the Carpet Capital Collegiate, finished third in the Tar Heel Intercollegiate and tied for fourth in the Brickyard Collegiate. His autumnal record was 309-5. That’s nuts.
While Heppler could not be more proud of and happy for Schniederjans, he believes the most important development of the fall came in seeing Reeves win a pair.
The senior lefty has at times been his own worst enemy, and has been predisposed at to out-think himself. This fall, he relaxed, practiced less but more efficiently. He won the Tar Heel and tied for honors at the Brickyard.
Reeves scuffled a bit in the USCC to finish in the middle of the pack with a five-over par score of 221, but still went 266-48 for the fall.
“I don’t stop halfway through the season [to evaluate the team],” the coach said. “I think Seth winning two college events is pretty significant for us. Richy has won a major amateur event. Anders has won a college event. Seth’s won two, Bo has one, and Ollie two. I think that helps the guys see themselves in a different light.
“It’s tying another knot in your rope, and being able to pull yourself up in how he looks at himself. Self esteem is a lot of it.”
Where the back end of the Jackets’ roster was churning last spring, it has been solid this fall as Werenski has begun to approach previous results.
He slumped a bit on the back half, but in tying for fifth at the Carpet Capital and finishing four in the Tar Heel, Werenski showed that the form he used to play a big part in Tech’s seasons when he was a freshman and a sophomore is still available.
His fall record was 240-74.
Albertson tied for fourth at the Tar Heel, where the Jackets went 1-2-3-T4, and finished third at the USCC. His fall record was 283-31 as just two of his 12 rounds were over par.
Andrews wasn’t able to pick up his hot spring pace, but finished strong with a 10th place showing at USCC and closed with a record of 195-119.
Tech missed tying No. 5 Oklahoma State by a single stroke Sunday, and after Schniederjans’ eight-foot birdie putt just missed on 18, he was typically hard on himself.
He won by four strokes with a 10-under par 206 over 54 holes, but ached for another shot in there . . . somewhere. There was lament for his double bogey at 14.
“I started really fast, really every day. I had 32 on the front every day. I was four-under through five [holes]. I had a seven-shot lead at that point,” he said. “I struggled a little bit with my swing on the back and it cost me on a couple holes. To lose by one shot in team golf, that shows how little that difference is.”
Heppler sure wasn’t holding anything against Schniederjans.
“The double bogey could have happened on the second hole of the tournament. We wouldn’t have been anywhere near the lead without him,” the coach said. “My comment to him was, ‘You shot 10 under.’ “
The Jackets probably could point to the first half of Saturday’s second round as a culprit. Schneiderjans was rolling to another 32 on the front and Albertson and Andrews fired 35s, but Reeves struggled to a 40 while Werenski turned at 37.
The front is typically considered the easier half of the Golf Club.
“The second round, we got off to a bad start. The golf course is in a place where it doesn’t get easier as you go along,” Heppler said. “If you get over par through the first six holes, it can be a lot harder to get around there.
“Probably that little stretch in the beginning of the second round we didn’t play as well as we could have.”
The Jackets are not finished golfing for the fall just yet.
This weekend, as allowed by a new NCAA rule, they’re going to travel to the site of the 2014 NCAA championships. The goal is to play a round Saturday at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., and another on Sunday. The championships will be May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes.
“After this weekend, I’ll shut it down for a couple weeks,” Schniederjans said. “Then, I’ll play once a week for a while. I’ll be working out a lot, and doing a lot of school work and try to have fun.”
Get Sting Daily in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.