May 5, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– Ollie Schniederjans on Monday was named National Amateur of the Month for April by the Southern Golf Association, which came as little surprise.
Likewise, it should be no shock that the junior from Powder Springs is in the running for national collegiate Golfer Of the Year awards and pondering a pro career.
He’s won five tournaments, including the ACC title, and he’s the first Georgia Tech golfer to win or tie for five titles in a school year. Will he go pro early, or return for his senior season?
This has been a topic of conversation recently between the linkster and Tech head coach Bruce Heppler, who is not giving any tips regarding Schneiderjans other than to say yes, those thoughts are there.
It’s a fact that one of Schniederjans’ good friends, former Alabama golfer Justin Thomas, went pro after two seasons. Another very good friend, Stanford junior Patrick Rodgers, has announced that he will go pro.
The stunning success that Jordan Spieth is having on the pro tour in his second season – after a stellar rookie season last year – is all the more reason that an early move to the pro ranks is an idea locked on Schneiderjans’ radar.
When Schnierdjans was a freshman at Tech, Spieth was a freshman at Texas.
“The minute a college kid starts playing good, that [talk about turning pro] starts flying,” Heppler said. “We’ve talked a lot about the pros and cons, and he’s trying to think through that. The other thing that he’s facing that is a challenge is Jordan Spieth was his peer in Juniors [golf], and he was every bit his equal.
“He turns on the TV a few weeks ago and Jordan Spieth has the lead in the Masters. Justin Thomas left after two years . . . his peers are going to be gone, and he’s going to be the only one who’s going to stay and graduate.”
For now, Schniederjans is making the most of his college career. He has won three consecutive tournaments – the Valspar Collegiate, the Robert Kepler Invitational and the ACC – and fired one of the finest rounds in the college season.
His 65 on the first day of the ACCs, when weather conditions turned brutal over the back nine and all scores but his skyrocketed at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C., was a wet, windy walk (slog) of beauty. Heppler called it one of the greatest rounds he’d ever seen.
“His passion to be successful is as high as anyone we’ve had since I’ve been here; his want to,” the coach said. “He thinks about it all the time, whether it’s working out on his body or working on his game; he talks to people about it. His passion and desire to learn has gotten him to where he has great ownership ofhis game.”
Schneiderjans stays in touch with Thomas and Rodgers, who is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world.
“I’m very aware [of what Rodgers does in tournaments],” Schniederjans said. “We talk a lot; I know him really well from juniors and college. We talk about golf, exchange ideas and thoughts.”
Heppler suggested that while Schniederjans does not hide the fact that, “he wants to make a living playing golf,” there is value gained in college and in playing college golf.
“He’s learning the benefits of staying in college by being near the lead in every tournament. In the pros, you see that guys don’t always close the deal,” the coach said. “The great thing that he’s experiencing right now is he’s winning from in front, winning from in back, how do you stay on the lead for 54 holes?
“It’s been a tremendous learning year for him. He can learn a lot more right now winning than being 40th in a Web.com event. He’s willing to admit he’s still learning.”
There is more learning to come.The Jackets on Monday were made the No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s Raleigh, N.C., regional (one of six) upon being ranked No. 2 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance index and No. 5 by Golfstat.
After spending several days away from the game and tending to his body (and final exams) in the wake of the ACCs, Schneiderjans has returned to work – or what will sooner or later be his profession.
“I’m just working at my game; there is always stuff to get better at,” he said. “My mind is fully focused on getting my swing better . . . I need to quiet down my body.”
While he has not tipped his hand with regards to his future, Schneiderjans is typically not one to obfuscate, rationalize or equivocate.That’s part of his strength as a golfer. He’s a plower, dis-inclined to over-analyze.
“He’s very forthright. You don’t get any junk. If he doesn’t like what we’re talking about, he’ll tell you. He’s very, very honest,” Heppler said. “You don’t get any garbage from him. He’s very bright, and he’s not going to give you any clichés.”
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