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#TGW: Jackets Re-focus Toward Match Play

May 27, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Ollie Schniederjans came within a whisker of winning the NCAA golf medal on Monday, when he narrowly missed a birdie putt on the second playoff hole and Stanford’s Cameron Wilson made birdie on the third.

The Georgia Tech junior was a bit bummed afterward, but the full beard is still out there to be won, and the Yellow Jackets will get back to work today with their shared goal still very much attainable.

They’re one of just eight teams still alive with a shot at the national title.

The Jackets will be the No. 5 seed entering match play quarterfinals after finishing the stroke play portion of the tournament in fifth place. The Jackets were 2-over par Monday, and finished 54 holes of stroke play at 1-over 841.

Next up, a match with No. 4 Oklahoma State (840) at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

“He’ll get over it,” head coach Bruce Heppler said after Schniederjans and graduate Seth Reeves paced the Yellow Jackets again with dual rounds of 68. “He’s on a team; we’re here to win a team title. They played like they played all year; they’re our top two guys.”

Indeed, the Jackets are at Prairie Dunes to try to win the first NCAA team title in program history. An individual championship would have been a bonus, to be sure, but it’s not what Tech has most in mind.

Schniederjans, whose 65 in the second round put him within striking distance of Wilson entering the third round, was as one might imagine in an odd mood after Monday’s round.

It was about 9:30 p.m. Kansas time when he took a moment to chat with The Good Word by phone after meeting media obligations at Prairie Dunes.

“I’m trying to get organized … I think I’ll reflect on this more later. I’m trying to get ready for [Tuesday], ” Schniederjans said. “I have a long-term focus, and I know I’ll win a lot of big tournaments. Jack Nicklaus finished second in 19 majors.”

Nicklaus, of course, also won 18 majors, which wasn’t too shabby. Nobody has ever won more.

The Jackets are where they want to be, in the Elite Eight, yet for much of their three rounds Schniederjans and Reeves were the Tech golfers who seemed to have the best grip on Prairie Dunes.

Schniederjans and Wilson both birdied 17 in regulation Monday, and the playoff came about after Wilson bogeyed 18. They finished regulation at 6-under-par 204, and Reeves was two strokes back in a tie for sixth after rounds of 66-72-68.

Junior Anders Albertson, who shot a nine-over 79 in his first round and then 73 in the second round, counted Monday when he turned in a 72. Graduates Richy Werenski and Bo Andrews each carded a 74 with one score being tossed out.

Prairie Dunes is quite different than courses the Jackets have played this season. It’s not long, at 6,941 yards, but requires imagination.

“I don’t know if we’re playing great, but we hung in there for 54 holes,” Heppler said. “There’s an opportunity. Anders was three over through five, and one under from there so he came through and we needed him. He’s probably still not hitting it the way he would like.

“It’s kind of a links-style course. There are not a lot of trees, and they have the high British Open grasses in the rough. The greens are undulating all kinds of ways. It’s a nice place.”

Schneiderjans finds a way to make himself at home no matter where the Jackets play. He won or tied for medalist honors in five tournaments this season (six if you count the NCAA pre-playoff). In Tech’s last five tournaments, he’s won or tied for the title four times and finished second in the NCAA regional last week.

“It’s not long, but you have to drive it in between the fescue [long rough],” he said. “It’s a lot like it sounds; it’s in the prairie, in the dunes. [Tuesday] is a new start for us, and you’re playing one-on-one. It’s a little different. We’ve had some rest.”

If the Jackets beat OSU, they’ll play again Tuesday against the winner of a match between top seed Stanford, which led the field with a 13-under par 827, and No. 8 seed Illinois (845).

Heppler isn’t looking past Oklahoma State, where he was an assistant from 1991-95 before Tech hired him. The Cowboys won the national title in Heppler’s last season in Stillwater, and prevailed over Heppler’s Yellow Jackets in a team playoff in 2000.

He didn’t know who the Jackets will play if they OSU.

“I don’t care. Just go play,” he said. “It’s late. I haven’t even looked at it.”

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