July 3, 2017
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– They don’t clobber each other anymore, as they did when younger, but Ollie, Ben and Luke Schniederjans – together, a Georgia Tech trilogy – are no less competitive with one another. It’s just not so physical any more.
When three brothers play sports as Yellow Jackets, there are bound to be plenty of connections. Mostly, they’re now via text messages, phone calls and yes, the occasional grudge matches – without bruises and scratches.
Growing up in Kennesaw, Ga., there was no master plan for the three children of Oliver and Linda Schniederjans to head to The Flats. They graduated from Merrimac College, in Boston, and their boys to this day share a love of New England sports teams. Yet once Ollie landed at Tech, a pipeline opened.
Nowadays, Mom and Dad pinch themselves regularly at the thought of Ollie graduating in 2015 as a three-time All-America and All-ACC golfer, Ben now pitching as a fourth-year junior, and Luke wrapping up his freshman year as golfer already with two tournament titles.
“Pretty much do that on a daily basis,” said Oliver. “It’s just like, Wow! The boys are really blessed. When they were really young, I knew they were going to be good athletes … pretty remarkable. It all started with Ollie. He was very highly recruited. When we started talking about it, [former Harrison High School and Tech teammate] James White was his good friend, and they talked about it.
“He kind of fell in love with it right away, and just wanted to be done with [recruiting]. He wanted to be local, near his swing coach, and at home.”
Ollie’s decision to attend Tech, beginning a semester early in 2011, set several wheels in motion. He graduated with a degree in management in 2015 having twice been named ACC Player of the Year. Two years after arriving on The Flats, big brother began recruiting Ben, 22. Three years later, he went after Luke, 18.
“Based on the things I was able to share with them from being here, playing golf, experiencing four years here, being a student-athlete, I felt like I was an advocate of Georgia Tech,” Ollie, 23, said last week while on campus taping a video segment for Inside the PGA Tour, where he’s one of golf’s hottest rookies. “I felt like I was gaining from my experience.
“It was sort of a similar kind of pitch where I felt like coming here would benefit you in life as a person in whatever we did after college … I shared that with both Ben and Luke. With Luke, I could give him more details about he was going to be able to expect, and with Ben it was all about being a student-athlete, and he certainly liked Georgia Tech baseball, which is an amazing program. And we all love the city of Atlanta.”
Tech surely is fond of the Schneiderjans.
Ollie’s career scoring average of 70.96 per round was second-best in Tech history (Bryce Molder, 70.69), and he won five tournaments as a junior, another as a senior. He qualified for the travel team every possible chance in his college career, although he missed a tournament as a senior because he’d gained entry into a PGA Tour event that coincided with a Tech tournament. Twenty-seven times as a Jacket he finished in the top 10 of tournaments, 17 times landing in the top five. In 2014, he tied for the lead in the NCAA Tournament before falling in a playoff.
Ben joined the baseball team as a preferred walk-on in the fall of 2013, made 13 appearances as a reliever his freshman season of 2014, missed most of 2015 and all of 2016 after undergoing surgery on his pitching elbow, and this season has appeared in 13 games, eight as a starter. The righthander has allowed opponents a meager .201 batting average while going 2-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 37.2 innings.
Luke won his inaugural college golf tournament last fall, the Carpet Capital Collegiate near Dalton, and took honors at the Puerto Rico Classic in February. Twice he was tabbed ACC Golfer of the Month, and he made the All-ACC team as a freshman – a year earlier than Ollie.
For both the younger brothers, Ollie’s word was gold.
“It’s obviously a big deal if you graduate from here, stay all four years, and go through the rigor of what this is with all the academics and athletics,” Ben said. “Hearing from him and what he was going through, and him telling me I could get through it, and how much better a person it would make me really made me want to come. This is the biggest school I was offered from. I was pretty set when they offered me, but that solidified it.”
The decisions of Ollie and Ben, who chose Tech over Coastal Carolina and the College of Charleston, made Luke’s choice almost obvious in 2016. Like Ben, he majors in business administration.
“I just feel like they made the right decisions before me to come here,” he said. “It was kind of already in the family, and they strive to do the same things I do so it was in my best interests to come here. I see the resources they have as they were going to school here, so I kind of knew what the school had to offer and how good coach [Bruce] Heppler was, and all the places Ollie got to travel and the places Ben got to go with the baseball team.
“I knew more about Georgia Tech than any other colleges. I wasn’t really super, highly recruited. I had an interest in visiting Vanderbilt, but I didn’t even really talk to the coach much. Coach Heppler gave me an opportunity, and it was pretty easy for me.”
Once Luke made his decision, Oliver recalled that, “His mom said, ‘Oh My God! We’re going to have three boys at Georgia Tech.’ We were kind of pinching ourselves … Luke had what I would call a decent senior year. He was kind of the smallest of the three, very skinny, and all the sudden he grew like five or six inches his senior year … There were two or three schools looking at him, and I think Bruce got wind. Ollie had constantly updated him, and Luke used to hang around the program.
“The thing I like about Bruce is he didn’t look at where he is today. He said, ‘I look at Ollie and Ben, and I’m going to give Luke a shot.’ “
For a while, Ben, a fourth-year senior pitcher for the Jackets, rocked basketball more than anything. All three were outstanding baseball players while young, each playing travel ball, often with their father as coach, and the same in basketball.
Ollie didn’t hit the links until he was 12 or so, and neither did Luke.
Eventually, they zeroed in on that sport alone.
“I loved that I could practice on my own, independently, and get better,” said Ollie, who has four top-10 finishes as a PGA Tour rookie. “I felt like the ball was in my hands at all times. I liked team sports, lots of positives, but at one point in time I didn’t like the fact that I only get to hit three times and maybe get one ground ball.
“Ben’s got the ball in his hand every time when he’s throwing on the mound. That’s a different role that I didn’t even consider at that age. I loved having the ball in my hand every time, hitting every shot, and felt I could dedicate my life to it.”
As the three were together recently at Tech’s new Noonan Practice Facility while taping the Inside the PGA Tour segment, Ollie and Luke chipped balls across the retention pond and onto a green. Ben threw golf balls, and a few of his lobs stopped closer to the pin. He’ll play a little golf, but, “Not competitively,” he said. “I don’t think I have the patience that these guys have.”
Luke and Ollie suggest they take very similar approaches to some aspects of competitive golf, like the way they moderate their emotions and flush disappointments – “the mental parts” as Luke says. Their games, however, are not alike.
“We actually have a lot of dissimilarities,” Ollie reports. “Luke hits it high, he’s got a longer swing, he’s got better fundamental golf ability than when I started. I had to work a lot harder on my technique, and Luke has more natural, better technique. He hits the ball better than I did at his age.
“He’s not quite as powerful, but he’s working toward that. I hit a lot lower, but we both get it done in our own way. We attack a course completely differently, and we have good competitions.”
Indeed, they still go at each other. When Ollie’s in town on a weekend, they gather for dinner at the Alpharetta home of their parents, and for, “video games, and ping pong,” Ben explained. “Who was the better basketball player growing up? I think that’s pretty clear. I think growing up, we were more physical. We grew up in a cul-de-sac, played every sport there was, and that’s when all the pushing, rough-housing happened.”
Gone are the days where the loser of a ping-pong game would raise his shirt, and the winner would whack a ball into his brother’s back. Ollie and his Tech teammates used to play that “game” in the Tech golf facility from time to time to, “relax.”
“Sting ball, or red dot. We did that when we were younger,” Luke said with a smile. “It’s not like a tradition, or anything. I wish our team would do that, but nobody on our team would do that.”
Much more frequently, the brothers check up on each other. Ollie attends Ben’s baseball games when he can, and has seen Luke play a few rounds. They stay in touch religiously after competitions. Like his father before him, big brother is careful not to preach.
“I get a text from Ollie after every one of my outings, ‘How did I feel? What did I learn?’ the mental side of things,” Ben said. “It’s very applicable with golf and pitching, the mental aspects and thought processes . . . it’s kind of more a conversation than a lecture.”
Luke and Ben follow their big brother on the PGA Tour either on television, or the PGA app on their phones.
“If I’m practicing when he’s playing, I’ll have it recorded and watch later,” Luke said. “I’m sure subconsciously I model my game after his in ways that I’m not aware of, but I ask him for a lot of advice and what he does for certain things — definitely mental.
“We’re friends, brothers. He doesn’t come off lecturing. He’s like a close friend that’s been through a lot of experiences who kind of knows what you’re going through.”
Ollie wouldn’t want it any other way, nor for his brothers to be anywhere but at Georgia Tech. On that topic, he gave distinct advice to his brothers.
“I felt like it prepared us the best,” he said of the school. “The challenges that are some of the reasons why some guys don’t want to come here, I kind of felt like those were things that made me want to come here.”