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#TGW: Match Race

Aug. 13, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Beyond all the shots made and missed, the putts drained and lipped out, there is the real game of golf and it’s not played over green but rather in the way contestants process tiny electrical currents through their gray matter.

Two of the three Georgia Tech-connected golfers who made the cut to 64 at the U.S. Amateur Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club had a grip: senior Ollie Schniederjans and recent graduate Bo Andrews rolled to easy match play wins on Wednesday.

On one end of the scale, Ollie sprinted to a 6&5 victory over Matt Teesdale of Maple Glen, Pa., as if on cruise control. He’ll meet Sam Burns of Shreveport, La., this morning at 8:45 on the first tee of the Highlands Course.

At the other, Seth Reeves remained out of sorts, and after grinding as if trying to push too big a gear up hill, he fell, 1-up, to South Korea’s Gunn Yang.

Reeves’ match ended when the last shot of it – his 18-foot uphill putt at No. 18 on the Highlands Course – missed right by a inches.

Accordingly, their comments reflected the degree to which they were comfortable, or not, between the ears.

Schniederjans said, “Today, the pace of play [was] amazing . . . I had huge problems the first two days with pace of play. It’s hard for me to stay patient, but today I could kind of walk to the beat of my own drum, and I stayed in momentum and rhythm all day.”

Quoth Reeves: “I just couldn’t ever get any momentum and couldn’t really relax. I was kind of stressed out; I’ve been stressed out all week for whatever reason.”

Andrews registered on Ollie’s end of the misery meter with a 5&4 win over Atlanta accountant Chris Waters, who attended Georgia without playing for the Bulldogs (he worked in the pro shop).

Where Reeves said that he never felt right, even though he lives about 20 minutes from the Johns Creek club, Schniederjans found his groove after a sketchy opening round and a half Monday and Tuesday in stroke play.

After firing birdies on the first four holes of his back nine Tuesday to card a three-under par, Ollie forgot all about his two-over 73 on Monday and got busy.

In making quick work of Teesdale, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur looked the part. Ollie was on, and unlike Monday when he not, he sounded like it, too.

Before Monday, he had not played a competitive round in nearly a month. There was rust to knock off.

Wednesday morning, he was shining like polished chrome in the sun while sprinting out to a 4-up lead through the first nine holes.

The pressure of being No. 1 and being in his “hometown” — although Johns Creek is quite a haul from Powder Springs – remains real, yet Ollie has set about strangling it.

“Yeah, there’s a lot going on . . . but I’m handling it well,” he said. “The stroke play [Monday and Tuesday] is such a beast because it’s just a circus out here the first two days. There’s good draws, bad draws, 312 players.

“I mean, I was so anxious to start the first round it was a joke, the most anxious I’ve ever been to start a round in my life, to finally get this thing started.”

Andrews, who graduated in May with Reeves, carried his vibe but with glitches.

He dropped the first two holes to Waters, but did not feel bad about it in the least.

From there, he won the next two and eight of 12 to buy himself extra time to rest for what could be two matches Thursday if he wins his first against Zachary Olsen of Cordova, Tenn.

Two months ago, Olsen, playing for Oklahoma State, beat Andrews 1-up, in the quarterfinals of the NCAAs.

Andrews won the first five holes on the back nine Wednesday to put it away.

He may not have struggled on Monday like Schniederjans to find his comfort zone, but he understands his former teammate’s sentiments about pressure.

“Not like a shaky start; just a little bit off today,” he said. “If you think about it, it goes from 8,000 entries to qualifiers to 312 players. You get to 64 and you’re like, `Wow, I’ve got a chance at that.’ That’s the feeling, and that’s the comfort I guess he’s talking about.”

Reeves, who will begin life as a pro in a few weeks in an eGolf event in South Carolina, never found that zone.

He bogeyed Nos. 2, 3 and 4 and yet lost just one of those holes. Through seven, however, he was down three. At the par three 4th, Yang’s tee shot found water but Reeves couldn’t capitalize as both players carded bogeys.

That was not the last time an opportunity either fell or was snatched away.

Reeves won Nos. 8 and 9 with a par and a 35-foot birdie putt, respectively, and looked like he might go all-square at 10. He reached the par four with his second, and Yang’s second then hit the flagstick and kicked hard left into a bunker.

After Reeves’ 40-foot putt left him about four feet out, Yang saved out of the sand to a foot or so. The hole would be halved.

A lost tee shot on 12 led to Reeves playing a provisional from a bunker alongside the fairway, and he had no choice but to go for it some 200 yards for the green after Yang laid up with his second.

The lefty piped it, but his ball caught the short-side bank – dead on-line to the flag – and rolled back into drink.

Hole over. Reeves trailed by two.

After pulling within one with a par at 14, where Yang threw his club approximately half as far as his 50-yard scull shot out of a fairway bunker, the former Yellow Jacket was again lurking.

His tee shot on the 213-yard par three 15th found the green, and left about an 18-footer for birdie.

Yang came up short of the green, but knocked in a 22-foot birdie from the fringe. Reeves lagged to fall behind by two with three left.

He made up one with a bomb of a tee shot on the 16th, and they halved 17 when Yang again saved out of sand, this time to about six feet.

That left the 557-yard 18th.

Both players drove the middle of the fairway, and from about 245 yards out, Yang laid up well short of water protecting the front.

Reeves pulled a hybrid for a 233-yard go for gusto.

He ripped that, too, although it came out a little lower than he would have liked. That ball stayed left, and dry. The result, though, was a tricky pitch from just off a green that sloped away from him. That shot ran about 18 feet past.

Yang tapped from just off the edge of the green to a foot, which Reeves conceded. Then, he had to curl in his putt. He didn’t. Match over.

“I knew I could get there and he probably wouldn’t ever go for it,” Reeves said. “I didn’t make a good swing and I was lucky that I carried the water. It was a difficult chip. I didn’t hit a good one. I should have hit it to five or six feet, and it was that sort of day. I had nothing go my way, really.”

Schniederjans isn’t pretending like the weight of extra expectations is not there. He has a handle, now, though, and sounded as if he can hardly wait to play Thursday, hopefully twice – at “home.”

He has come to know a thing or two about playing before crowds larger than those typical of run-of-the-mill amateur events and even on the college circuit.

His runs earlier this summer on the Tour, where he tied for fifth in the Air Capital Classic, and in the Scottish Open (T-41) have prepped him.

“It could definitely be a distraction for me playing here with so many people watching. But I think part of it bothers the guy I’m playing against,” he said. “I know it bothered the two guys we played with yesterday, the last two days.

“We had so many people; as soon as I would putt out, the gallery is walking ahead. I’m sure Tiger’s [opponents] or Rory’s — I feel almost a little bit like that, like they are there to watch me.

“Today, I think this guy had never played in a crowd like that, and most of the week I could be playing against guys that have never played in a situation this big with that big of a crowd, and I definitely handle it well.”

Schniederjans is relieved to have survived stroke play and re-discovered his stroke. Reeves is relieved for different reasons. He’ll turn pro any day.

“I just played terrible . . . it’s probably one of the worst rounds I’ve played all year,” he said. “And [Yang] probably made 75 to 100 feet of putts, got up and down from some areas he shouldn’t have so hats off to him. My swing was always a little off . . . I’m just kind of glad it’s over for that fact.

“I’ll talk to some club companies and see what [management] team I’m going to join. I’m excited about that. My game is there, but I haven’t played good. I’m kind of excited to take the next step and see what I can do because the physical is there. I’m going to forget about [this].”

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