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#TGW: Shaking off the Rust

Aug. 11, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

– For as long as he’s been looking forward to this and for as excited as Ollie Schniederjans was entering the U.S. Amateur Championship, he’s looking forward all the more to Tuesday’s do-over of sorts.

Monday’s 73 was not in his cards although it stuck on his card.

The Georgia Tech senior went off the 10th tee on the Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course Monday at 2:10 p.m., and the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur rarely looked the part on his way to a tie for 105th place.

Ollie was out of whack most of the way.

He was two over at his turn, drew back to even par with birdies at Nos. 1 and 3, and then gave back those two shots to land two over par entering today’s final round of stroke play as the field of 312 will be reduced to 64 for match play Wednesday through Sunday.

That No. 1 ranking carries weight and pressure.

Add the fact that Schniederjans was playing his first competitive round since the Scottish Open four weeks ago, and Ollie didn’t look so much like Ollie.

“I made uncharacteristic errors, and threw a lot of shots away. It wasn’t very good,” he said. “I would say I was a little bit rusty competition-wise. I was a little bit careless, and I would say too conservative with my swings. I bailed out a lot.

“My game’s been great heading into this, and I just made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes … I just didn’t play like myself … I’ve been so anxious to start this. I’m just glad that the tournament starts over Wednesday.”

It didn’t help that Schniederjans was in turbo mode, and his playing partners were, um, not.

Nikolaj Brons-Piche (Traverse City, Mich., Texas Wesleyan) and Peter French (Franklin, Mass., Johnson & Wales) each received a one-stroke penalty for pace of play. They combined for 16 “bad times” on the clock. Schniederjans did not receive one.

Brons-Piche, 19, entered the tournament Monday morning as the first alternate, after Sean Knapp, 52, withdrew. Brons-Piche and French each carded 78s.

“It was horrible, really tough to get in a rhythm early,” he said. “We were really slow … I was walking ahead of them all day, but that happens. I play real fast, and I have to be patient and slow down to meet normal five-hour rounds which is not my style. That’s the way it always is in big tournaments.”

The driver was kind enough to Schniederjans. His blades were at issue.

“It was irons, which I never do,” he said. “My iron shots were uncharacteristically off line, and my distances were [off].”

Schniederjans, who took medalist honors at the ACC tournament among five wins last season in addition to tying for the scoring lead at the NCAA Championship before falling in a playoff, isn’t worried either about catching Monday’s leaders, nor about his game.

He said he knows what he did wrong: he played it too safe.

Tuesday’s round on the AAC’s 7,381-yard, par 71 Riverside course will offer chances to atone. He’ll tee off No. 1 at 9:05 a.m.

“Riverside is a great golf course. I’d say it fits anybody who plays well,” Schniederjans said. “It’s going to be a lot more get-able in the morning; the greens will be more pure.

“I’m just glad that the tournament starts over Wednesday, and now that I’ve got 18 holes under my belt I can wake up and play a good course, and if I play good it doesn’t matter what I did [Monday]. I don’t care if I’m 60th or the No. 1 seed [entering match play].”

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