April 28, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn The Good Word
Surely there is most often folly to be found in trying to rank championships for the joy they generate or the merit behind them, yet Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans can each pull an ace out of their Georgia Tech golf memory bags.
Among their three ACC team titles, the long-time friends claim the latest as greatest. Who could beat the drama as the Yellow Jackets won their 16th ACC golf crown on Sunday’s second sudden-death playoff hole against Clemson?
Schniederjans felt, “Awesome,” to be an appropriate word.
“It was so special, so different than any other cool experience at the end because it was totally a team effort,” he recalled. “It came down to all five of us playing. It was the coolest of them because you’re sharing it. We all got it done.”
The Jackets won with four birdies and a par on the second playoff hole to Clemson’s lone birdie and four pars. The teams tied the first playoff hole.
It’s always good to trample the Tigers. This, clearly, rose above the usual dust.
Out from under their avalanches of success at Tech – where Schniederjans’ 2014 ACC title was one of his six career tournament wins, and Albertson has won three, including a shared title Sunday at the Old North State Club which made him the fifth golfer to win two ACC titles – they marveled.
It was like neighborhood pals building a fort in the nearby alley, and finding out that, somehow . . . gold was buried beneath it.
Schniederjans, who is from Powder Springs, and Albertson, who is from Woodstock, didn’t find clover. They WERE clover.
Together they went 20-under par as Tech finished regulation at 19-under par.
That overtime, though, was even more a shared effort than the pretext as Schniederjans, sophomore Vince Whaley and Albertson ran in consecutive birdie putts on the 18th hole to clinch.
In New London, N.C., they banked a memory to top them all.
“I can’t imagine a better way to go out; to get both those titles and share them with my teammates, and Ollie and coach Heppler and coach Webb,” Albertson said. “Ollie and I have been playing together since we were 13, two kids from just north of Atlanta. To have that much success in that tournament means a lot.”
The Tigers forced the playoff when three of their four scoring golfers birdied No. 18. Tech freshman Chris Petefish was the lone Jacket to birdie 18 in regulation. His teammates, including freshman James Clark, all hit par.
Head Coach Bruce Heppler said he remember two playoffs in his head coach at Tech. The Jackets lost the 2000 NCAA team title to Oklahoma State that way, and were ACC co-champions with North Carolina when a 2006 playoff was truncated by darkness.
Each team carded four pars and one birdie on the first playoff hole, as they played the par-5 18th.
There were two five-somes in the playoff. Clemson won a coin toss and Tigers coach Larry Penley sent his No. 3, 4 and 5 golfers out first with Tech’s No. 4 and 5 – two freshmen — as the rivals played No. 18 one more time.
Clark hit par, Petefish birdie as Clemson carded two pars and a birdie in the first group.
Heppler, who was forward with his freshmen, radioed back to assistant coach Brennan Webb, who was with Schniederjans, Albertson and Whaley.
“Now you know your two guys have matched their three. Now I’ve got three guys with a chance to make birdie and they’ve only got two; we got a draw with our freshmen,” Heppler said. “Then, we’ve got three guys sitting in the fairway and they’ve got one and another in the water.”
All three Jackets approached safely, and got down in four while both Tigers scored par (five). Tech won the second playoff hole with four birdies and a par to Clemson’s one birdie and four pars.
Already with enough rings for every finger and thumb, the first one for Heppler’s toe stands out. A year ago, the Jackets played up to expectations with three seniors and two juniors who all had played Old North State before.
Petefish, Whaley and Clark were newcomers playing in their seventh, sixth and fifth events as members of the travel squad.
Sure, No. 1 Florida State this year wore the heaviest yoke of expectation, but that field was stocked with 10 ranked teams.
“This one is as satisfying as any of them because of the strength of the conference, and taking three guys who had never played there, never seen the place,” the coach said.
In regulation, Albertson’s par on 18 left him in a tie with an 11-under-par 205, that was matched by Louisville’s Robin Sciot-Siegrist and Virginia Tech’s Trevor Cone. Schniederjans finished two strokes back, alone in fourth at nine-under 207.
Petefish counted in all three rounds while shooting even par (73-71-72=216) and tying for 23rd. Clark counted in the first (73) and third rounds (72) on his way to a tie for 34th at six-over 222. Whaley’s second round (72) counted as he tied for 36th at 223.
There is no hiding the fact that Albertson and Schniederjans drive the Jackets.
“We know that; that’s the makeup of this team,” Heppler said. “They’re two of the best players in program history. The question was if they do that, can the other three be good enough to win? They were.”
As the Jackets await word on which NCAA regional they’ll go to in a couple weeks, Schniederjans and Albertson will first lay low. They’ll graduate Saturday, and the last batch of schoolwork is at hand.
“I haven’t taken a day off in maybe three weeks,” Schniederjans said. “I’m just really fortunate, and I feel very lucky to get to have done what I’ve done at Georgia Tech. It’s been a lot of fun. And sharing it with Anders has been great.”
Albertson is looking forward with plenty upon which to look back.
“We know there are two more tournaments to take care of,” he said. “I need a break. I need a little bit of mental and physical rest. I’ll get back probably Thursday and Friday.
“[Sunday’s win] was a lot of excitement and relief. I’m really happy, and proud of the young guys. It was big how Petey and James played in the first group. We had three guys in the last group and with as much confidence as we were playing with . . . it was fantastic.”