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#STINGDAILY: Playing With Confidence

Sep 8, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Ollie Schniederjans picked up his first collegiate win Sunday, and yet the Georgia Tech junior had room to kick himself on the drive back to Atlanta.

Really, though, he barely could be convinced to lament playing the final two holes of the Carpet Capital Collegiate in three-over par Sunday.

Sure, that left him a co-medalist with North Carolina’s Bailey Patrick, and it would have been great to finish alone at the top of the individual heap.

The bigger picture matters more and after the No. 4-ranked Yellow Jackets captured the team title by six shots over Georgia, Ollie was just A-OK.

“It is a weird feeling because I . . . played amazing this week, but while I can think of at least four shots today I gave away it was good enough for the team to win,” he said after shooting a 73 at the Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga., for a three-round total of 9-under par 207.

“The big thing is the team won. We’re the best we’ve been since I got to school. Literally all five of us could have a 65 on any given day. We have three fifth-year seniors, and Anders [Albertson] and I have been here two and a half years. We’re so experienced.”

Seniors Seth Reeves and Richard Werenski each fired rounds of 67 Sunday, when the Jackets’ fourth counting round belonged to senior Bo Andrews as he shot 74.

They helped cover for Albertson, who slipped to an even-par score of 216 after Sunday’s round of 75. He began the day in sixth place, and finished tied for 12th.

Just 11 golfers in the field of 75 finished the tournament under par as the Jackets won the title for the first time since Tech won it from 1999-2001.

Three of them were Jackets. Werenski tied for fifth at two-under par 214, and Reeves was 11th at 215.

These guys know a thing or two about covering for each other. You might say there is a vibe among the Jackets approaching that of those ’99-’01 teams that were staffed by current pros Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder and Troy Matteson.

Those guys shared all kinds of awards and titles, and more than that.

“Anders drove home with me, and he asked what Matt and Bryce were like,” said Tech head coach Bruce Heppler. “I can remember so many times the media . . . they would go to Matt because he had won the U.S. Amateur, and Matt would say, `Guys, I’m not the interview; the guy is over there.’

“There was no jealousy, no animosity. There was a chance to create great relationships, and win. They knew that the biggest hurdle they had to get over was right here in town. Those guys made each other better.”

Hard to argue the suggestion that a similar synergy is in effect again at Tech.

“We’ve just experienced so much, played under so much pressure,” Schniederjans said. “We’ve been successful under pressure, and not successful under pressure. There is no other way to explain it; I think it’s clear that this is the best school to play college golf. Just look at all the golfers we have on Tour.”

Heppler talks about the balance required to survive as a golfer at Georgia Tech, where time management is a massive prerequisite because of the academic demands on The Flats, and depth of talent pushes every one.

All of it forges better golfers and people.

“It gives these guys something else to be really good at, to feel really good about,” the coach said. “When things don’t go well out on the golf course, if you got a degree from this place; that means something.

“If five weeks in a row you don’t make the cut, you still have something else to feel good about. I really think that means something.”

Schniederjans felt good going to the final two holes Sunday with a two-stroke lead. He was nervous, “but no more than at the U.S.C.C. or in the NCAAs.”

The tee shot on No. 17 was yanked left.

“My worst shot of the week; it was bad right away,” Ollie recalled. “Bogey was going to be the best I got after that tee shot, and I missed the bogey putt.”

The lead was down to one as UNC’s Patrick bogeyed 17 with his own jitters.

Schniederjans got off a wonderful tee shot on 18, but would three-putt for bogey while Patrick struck par to tie.

Not the ideal way to wrap up a tournament that he’d led nearly wire-to-wire, but valuable nonetheless for Schniederjans.

He’d faced similar putts twice last season, in fact, and made them to earn Tech a tie with Cal for the title in the United State Collegiate Classic and to help the Jackets beat UNLV in the NCAA quarterfinals – in sudden death: “Exactly, but this time it didn’t go in.”

The Jackets were well in the clear, however, in topping the 14-team field with a total of 14-under par 850. Georgia (856) was the only other squad to finish in the red.

Tech fared well last spring in the NCAAs, finishing second in stroke play before falling in the match play semifinals to eventual champion Alabama, and then the Jackets had strong summers individually.

They’re feeling good about themselves, and their team, and that helps them play with confidence. They believe they can win every event they enter.

“We’re probably one of two or three teams that can feel that way,” Schniederjans said before adding that Alabama and Cal were, in his opinion, the others.

“I don’t even think we played that well here, and when we do . . . I think we might be the best team in the country; we’ve had that conversation. And for me, I’ve never led a tournament for this long, from the 16th hole to the end. The next time I’m in this situation, this will help me.”

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