#TGW: Heading to the Finish Line
Legacy of Albertson and Schniederjans as a duo at Tech is unsurpassed
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- Considering how hard they try to avoid trees, it's funny that graduate golfers Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson - who are joined as one of Georgia Tech's great sporting tandems - once chose a tree to separate themselves.
Actually, it was just Ollie's idea to hide. Anders was probably grinning.
It wasn't all that long ago that the dual engines for the 12th-ranked Yellow Jackets' ever-charging golf machine first began competing with each other, and, well, sort of wanted to wrap clubs around each others' necks.
They were 12, maybe 13 (they're not sure), and these two lean lads from the north of Atlanta who lived near enough to one another to connect by can and string were trying to beat each other's considerable brains out.
Schniederjans, a tall, curious chap from Powder Springs, a couple weeks earlier had beaten the more staid Albertson of nearby Etowah for the first time. Ollie fired an ace in a junior tournament in Cherokee County, and won by a stroke.
The birth of a small universe - formed by competitive fire -- was at hand.
Albertson was none too happy. Not long after, he finished atop the leader board at a tournament near Stone Mountain.
"I was playing really well, and this guy came along and I really didn't know who he was, finishing second and third, and wow!" Albertson recalled before the Jackets left for The Concession Golf Club, where the NCAA Tournament will be held in Bradenton, Fla., from Friday-Wednesday.
"At Bridgemill, he beat me; he had a hole-in-one. Then, I beat him [at Stone Mountain], and he was so upset he had to go behind a tree."
Schniederjans -- a finalist as a junior for various college golfer-of-the-year awards on his way to the world's No. 1 ranking among amateurs -- was fuming.
"I'd had a hole-in-one in the round of my life, on No. 5 [at Bridgemill]. I shot 68 and he shot 69," Schniederjans recalled of his first win over Albertson. "After the round [at Stone Mountain], we signed our cards and I played so bad ...
"I was just a kid; I just know I wanted to get away from everything. I sat behind that tree. I think I shot in the 80s, and I think Anders was in the 60s."
You'd be pressed to find another pair of Tech athletes who over the course of their shared careers on The Flats accomplished more. Trees have not interfered.
Schniederjans, 21, and Albertson, 21, have been central to three ACC team championships among 14 team tournament titles while winning a combined nine individual titles - including three straight conference crowns.
Ollie's won six college tournaments and Anders three, including two this season. Schniederjans' career scoring average (70.85) and Albertson's (71.36) are second and third in Tech history, trailing only that of Bryce Molder (70.69) from 1998-'01.
And yet Jackets head coach Bruce Heppler said, "They couldn't be more different in everything they do. Anders is a little more careful, and Ollie is more carefree - even in the way they go about their lives. It's been good for us."
Can warm and fuzzy understatement insulate the reality that at times these guys have tortured each other?
Albertson and Schniederjans have taken turns, each firing crucibles for the other, and they and are better for that as they, freshmen James Clark and Chris Petefish and sophomore Vincent Whaley prepare to compete in the NCAA Tournament for the 27th time since 1985.
Tech's had some fabulous golfing groups to set the pace for terrific teams.
Stewart Cink and David Duval, who have each won a major as pros, were teammates for three years in the early 1990s. Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder and Troy Matteson were dominant around the turn of the century, and Nicholas Thompson and Chan Song and their teammates were outstanding more than a decade ago.
Albertson and Schniederjans have kept up - and dueled - since entering Tech in 2011 after graduating early from Etowah and Harrison high schools, respectively.
"Some [teammates] work together, and some get better because they want to beat each other so bad," Heppler said. "If you're the best by a mile, where does the push come from? It really benefits these guys ... they're back to where they're helping each other."
This rivalry has spawned serious results.
Between them, Anders and Ollie have finished in the top 10 an amazing 48 times in 47 events.
Albertson qualified for and played in every possible tournament for the Jackets in his college career. Schniederjans missed only the Seminole Intercollegiate in March because he used an exemption into the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.
Albertson was All-ACC four times, Schniederjans three.
They're different. Anders is a little more deliberate, and less likely to experiment with methodology. Ollie is a tad more outgoing, and may think out loud.
As they hugged after Tech beat Clemson on the second playoff hole last month to win the ACC championship, it was clear that Albertson and Schniederjans are more than just two linksters who know each other.
Albertson is one of a handful of golfers to win two ACC titles; Schniederjans is one of a handful to be named ACC player of the year in back-to-back years.
They've driven each other.
"I think that people misunderstand Ollie. He's very intellectual and very well thought out, very smart. I think we're actually similar," Albertson said. "Definitely, we push each other, whether it's in the weight room, school, or whatever.
"He's one of the very few guys I will bounce things off of. I'll have him look at my swing, and I know his. We have similar beliefs."
Each young man has his ways, and midway through high school - when their teams competed in the same region - after Albertson was first to commit to play for the Jackets, they began to connect in a way where they might talk theory.
"I'd say we're similar in that we both want to do big things in golf, both play at a high level, both be as good as anybody," Ollie said. "We have different personalities, very different backgrounds. I think socially we're a lot different. Anders is pretty deliberate, and very peculiar about everything he does. I'm a little more uptight about some things.
"But definitely a lot of times we've talked about golf swings, or mental things, or things in our lives, or things we've observed. We're able to talk and bounce ideas off each other. We have a lot of respect for each other. We can trust each other."
While they do much differently, there is no mistaking likeness.
Ollie and Anders are each in the process of moving separately to Alpharetta, where they both plan to play as professionals out of the Golf Club of Georgia. Schniederjans has made arrangements to live and practice out of Jupiter, Fla., from Dec. 1-April 1.
"The first year in college, we got very close," Albertson said. "We had the exact same schedule and lived in the same dorm. I've spent a whole chapter of my life with him.
"I would say we both want to be the best, and to play on the PGA Tour. That's where we want to go, and we came to Georgia Tech because we wanted to put in the work and not just get by. There are things that come along with school here, and you have to be willing to work had to be successful."
Albertson has averaged 69.8 strokes over his past eight events, winning twice (including his second ACC title), finishing in the top 10 five times and in the top 14 in all of them. His record in that span: 568-46 (.925).
Last spring, as Schniederjans won three straight tournaments, including the ACC, then finished second in an NCAA regional, and finally tied for first in the NCAA Championship before falling in a playoff. He averaged 68.3 strokes during that time, and put together a record of 440-2 (.995), with one of the "losses" being that playoff.
He's 698-97 this year, with a scoring average of 70.03, a win, six top five finishes in 11 events. Nine times, he's been in the top 10.
When the Jackets repeated last month as ACC champions with a score of 19-under par (before the playoff) at the Old North State Club in North Carolina, Albertson and Schniederjans played to a combined 20 under par.
Their methods and habits may differ. Their results are twin-like. Albertson will turn 22 on June 8, Schniederjans will turn 22 on June 15.
They both made the ACC Academic Honor Roll four times, and each was named Tech's Bobby Dodd Scholarship award winner. Albertson won the Byron Nelson Award last month.
They both graduated earlier this month, Schniederjans with a degree in management, and Albertson in with business administration.
Heppler describes Schniederjans as a thinker, not that Albertson doesn't apply his mind, obviously (see above).
Once on their respective ways in college, these two didn't necessarily grow apart so much as they grew differently.
Sometimes, they counseled each other more, sometimes, less.
Albertson struggled through his worst collegiate performance last October, going 79-82-73=234 to tie for 76th out of 79 at the U.S. Collegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Georgia.
Then, he fell ill with an inflammation of the sac around his heart. That prevented him from practicing, and he had to qualify for the Jackets' next tournament, in Hawai'i. Schniederjans left him alone.
"That was tough because I didn't I didn't feel in a place to say anything," Ollie said. "I felt he was dealing with some personal issues that he wanted to keep to himself, and ... he basically hit rock bottom.
"When you hit rock bottom, you stop worrying so much because it can't get worse. We talked after he got back about what it was, and I had things going on at the time as well."
Anders qualified, and rolled to a fourth-place finish in the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational with rounds of 68-67-65=200. He's been on a tear since with finishes of tie-11, tie-fourth, tie-11, tie-eighth, tie-first, tie-first and tie-14th.
When Schniederjans struggled earlier this spring upon toggling back and forth between a couple pro events and his college schedule, Albertson gave room.
"We've been friends," Anders said, "but there are certain times when space is needed, and it's not weird or uncomfortable."
Schniederjans and Albertson have a rivalry without being bitter rivals.
The end of their shared time is coming near.
After the NCAAs, they will team to represent the United States in the Palmer Cup June 12-14 at Rich Harvest Farms in Delaware. Heppler will be their head coach one last time in a more relaxed setting.
"There will be a lot on edge down in Florida [at the NCAAs]," Heppler said. "It's been every day for four years for this. There will be a lot of emotion and tension. We're just going to represent the U.S. and have a blast [at the Palmer Cup]."
After the Palmer Cup, where collegians representing the U.S. will compete against collegians representing Europe, Albertson will turn professional. Schniederjans will first use exemptions to play as an amateur in the U.S. and British Opens before playing for pay.
Then, they'll be full-time opponents.
"You kind of think about [their bountiful] shared careers ... you know the facts and stuff, but I don't think it surprises either one of us," Schniederjans said. "Four and half years ago, that's kind of what we expected. We both wish we could have done even better. I think we're just trying to get better."
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