By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- Luke Schniederjans and the fellas felt darned good going into Georgia Tech’s first tournament of the season and coach Bruce Heppler shared the vibe, yet there was still a teeny-tiny shred of doubt among the golfers.
Once Schniederjans drained that 12-foot putt on Sunday’s first playoff hole to push the Yellow Jackets past Alabama and into the winner’s circle for the Carpet Capital Collegiate, the old gold and white were confirmed.
They earned the right to expect more gold.
Here's a look at Luke Schniederjans' tournament winning putt at the Carpet Capital Collegiate. pic.twitter.com/RZSdeSRLCM
— Georgia Tech Golf (@GT_GOLF) September 10, 2017
Tech went two years without winning a tournament, which is nearly astounding considering the vast pedigree of the program, and just days before the season began, Heppler said, “I see a better team. They see a better team, and now we’ll see if we are a better team.”
Schniederjans said, “It’s not false hope. We actually believe we can win.”
Now, they know.
Andy Ogletree tied for seventh with a six-under par score of 210, and his score didn’t even count Sunday toward the Jackets’ nine-under part team total of 850.
“To see everybody’s hard work pay off ... we knew we were capable of that and everybody playing good at the same time,” Ogletree said after firing a 73 to follow rounds of 69 and 68 at the par-72 Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.
“Last year it seemed like every time we had two people play bad, it was at the same time ... Luke’s putt was huge.”
With every other golfer and both teams’ coaches gathered around the first green watching as Schniederjans lined up his putt, Ogletree said, “I looked over at whoever and I said, ‘That’s going in,’ even before he hit it. That’s how much confidence I have.”
Heppler scratched his head several times the past two seasons trying to figure out how teams with plenty of talent kept drawing bubbles in their lines.
After the Jackets won with three sophomores, a freshman and a senior, he sort of scratched his head again. In college golf, each five-player team counts the four lowest scores of the day.
“The best thing is everybody feels good. I don’t know if we’ve ever had everybody finish under par,” the coach said. “One of the key factors that you look at is your average drop score. If that’s under 76, you know you’ve got guys who can play. We went 74, 73, 73 ... that should bode well for our group.
“This should be one of our deepest teams. We’ve had some sporty groups ... but they’re impressive. Five guys who can drive the ball well, and we started making some putts. Everybody feels like they were part of it.”
Former Yellow Jacket golfer Roberto Castro, who will go into the Tech athletic Hall of Fame next week, lives in Atlanta and frequently works out at the new Noonan Golf Facility. He was impressed from afar. Check out his Tweet:
This team could stack em up this year. Awesome start. https://t.co/8p8t9FKWJt
Heppler was excited, yet held a foot lightly on the brakes.
“We don’t need to count our chickens, but I know good,” the coach said. “Roberto needs to slow down. But he’s been over at the range, and he knows good.”
Castro played on some very good teams at Tech, where a great golf team is comprised of multiple good players who suffer no personal agendas that might slow the roll of the squad.
Everybody must move the same direction without jealousy. That’s not easy; they’re all competitors and they want to play every time out. It’s more important that they care about the team.
Schniederjans was six-under par for his round as he went to the final hole of regulation Sunday, but “I made double [bogey] on 18, which I felt really bad about.”
No matter. Every Jacket contributed at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, where Strafaci and Petefish birdied the 18th on to pull Tech into a tie with Alabama.
Schniederjans shot 74-73 in his first two rounds, and having won this tournament a year earlier in his college debut, he wasn’t happy about that. So, on Saturday night he called his brother, legendary Tech golfer Ollie.
Big brother told him to clear his head. When Luke went to putt on that playoff hole, he said, “I just wasn’t even thinking. I wasn’t shaking ... it was really cool.”
So was that putt.
“He’s just a great resource,” Heppler said of PGA Tour rookie Ollie Schniederjans, a four-time All-ACC player who earned All-America honors three times before graduating in 2015. “They just talked about what he was thinking pre-shot, about mindset.
“I can’t tell you what a great big brother he is, and the fact that [Luke] can live with the shadow, and he gets the resource ... the shadow doesn’t bother him.”
Truth be told, Tech’s team goes beyond the scoring golfers and to its entire roster of 12, its coaches and beyond. Call it the chemistry of confidence.
“I’ve won a lot of amateur tournaments and juniors tournaments, but it’s a different feeling to win,” Ogletree said. “And we were all talking about it on the way home, about how much more satisfying it is to win as a team.”