THE FLATS – Luke Schniederjans fired a 4-under-par 68 and then rolled in a 12-foot putt for birdie on the first playoff hole, lifting 18th-ranked Georgia Tech to the team championship over No. 19 Alabama Sunday at the 29th Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.
The putt for Schniederjans, a sophomore from Powder Springs, Ga., capped a roller-coaster ride for the Yellow Jackets over the final couple of holes in regulation. Tech had taken the lead in the tournament after starting the round a shot behind Florida, and had used a superlative performance on the back nine to move three shots ahead of the Crimson Tide, with whom the Jackets began the round tied for second place.
Schniederjans was at the forefront of the Tech surge, getting to 6-under-par for his round with no bogeys through 17 holes. But Alabama picked up steam over the final holes and actually took the lead when Schniederjans sprayed his approach shot into a bank of bushes behind the 18th green, taking double bogey while his Crimson Tide playing partner, Jonathan Hardee, made birdie.
Alabama led by as many as three shots after that, but Tech dug in and got birdies from senior Chris Petefish and sophomore Tyler Strafaci on the final hole, while the Tide lost a third shot on Davis Shore’s bogey at the last. In the final group of the day, Alabama’s Lee Hodges missed a five-foot birdie attempt that would have given his team the victory, leaving the teams tied at 14-under-par.
In the playoff, with all five players on each side participating, nine players parred the first hole before Schniederjans stepped up and confidently rolled in his putt, giving the Jackets their eighth all-time victory in the Carpet Capital Collegiate. It was the program’s 51sttournament victory overall in its 23rd year under head coach Bruce Heppler.
“I wasn’t even thinking there. I just tried to trust my line and make a good putt,” said Schniederjans, the defending champion who captured the title here in his first college competition last September. “I hit a really good putt, and I’m so glad it went in.”
TEAM LEADERBOARD – Georgia Tech and Alabama began the day tied for second place, one shot behind Florida, and played toe-to-toe the entire day. No. 13 Auburn moved into a tie with the Jackets at one point during the round, but dropped back to third place in the end at 10-under-par 854. Tech and Alabama finished at 14-under-par 850. All three teams posted the same score for the round, 9-under-par 279.
Seventh-ranked LSU (860, -4) finished fourth, followed by Florida and Tennessee at 2-under-par 862. The Gators, needing to return to Gainesville ahead of approaching Hurricane Irma, played in the first groups on Sunday rather than with the leaders, and faded to a 4-over-par round of 292. No. 17 Clemson was the only other team in the 15-team field to finish under par, taking seventh place at 1-under 863.
TECH LINEUP – Andy Ogletree, the Tech sophomore from Little Rock, Miss., who shot 69-68 the first two days to stay near the lead, didn’t count for the Yellow Jackets on Sunday after shooting 73, yet remained the team’s highest finisher, tying for seventh place at 6-under-par 210. It was the highest finish of his career.
Tech’s counting scored Sunday game from Schniederjans (68), freshman Noah Norton (69), Petefish and Strafaci (each with 71). All four players finished in a tie for 15th individually at 1-under-par 215.
Even more gratifying for Heppler and the Jackets was the fact that Tech’s discarded scores for the weekend were 74-73-73, a collective 4-over-par.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD – Alejandro Tosti, the Florida senior, completed a wire-to-wire championship performance by shooting a 71 Sunday to finish 54 holes at 11-under-par 205. Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer, with a closing 69, finished two shots behind at 9-under-par 207.
Alabama’s Davis Riley, North Florida’s Phillip Knowles, Clemson’s Turk Pettit and Auburn’s Trace Crowe tied for third at 7-under-par 209, while LSU’s Nathan Jeansonne tied Ogletree for seventh at 6-under 210.
COACH BRUCE HEPPLER’S TAKE – “If [Schniederjans] had made double-bogey at the first and then made six birdies, you would think about it a lot differently. I think these guys are starting to get over their individual stuff. Once the team starts having chances to win, then your own moments begin to dissipate, and you begin to think, ‘I just need to play for everybody else.’ That’s the culture that you’re looking for; the other stuff doesn’t matter. Let me get one more hole and see what I can do.”