Recent Georgia Tech graduate Ollie Schniederjans ended his amateur career at the British Open, achieving a rare feat that put him in some elite company.
Schniederjans made the cut in both the U.S. Open and British Open, making him just the third American amateur in the past 50 years to do so. The other two are Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
The two-time first team All-American did more than just make the cut in the British. He shot 5-under 67 the final day on St. Andrews’ famed Old Course to finish tied for 12th, and was in position to overtake the leaders in the final round after notching seven birdies on his first 10 holes.
Schniederjans’ surge halted at that point, and his fading hopes were dashed at St. Andrews’ infamous 17th (the Road Hole). But he closed out the tournament and his amateur career in style, making birdie at the 18th after almost holing his second shot for eagle.
One month earlier, Schniederjans also made the cut in the U.S Open at Chambers Bay, tying for 42nd. He also played in the European Tour Scottish Open the week before the British Open, making the cut there for the second straight year, shooting 2-over for the tournament.
Schniederjans earned spots in those events by ending 2014 as the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, and waited until after those three appearances as an amateur to turn professional. He turned pro the day after the British Open ended, and two days later made his professional debut at the Canadian Open, playing his first round in his new status in 1-under 71 with six birdies.
The 22-year-old Schniederjans is the latest in a talented group of young Americans to turn pro in recent years, closing out his amateur career with a bang after a senior season at Georgia Tech that was not quite up to the lofty standards he set in 2013-14.
“It was a great final day,” Schniederjans said after his closing 67 at St. Andrews. “Amazing final day as an amateur. Couldn’t ask for anything more special, feeling like I belonged out here and watching my name go up on the leader board. Extremely special day and I’m ready to go.
“My game is in the best place it’s been ever. I felt great the last two or three weeks with it, and it’s a long way from where I was in college this year. I’m proud of how I came out of it, and I’m hitting the ball really well.”
After an exceptional junior season, which included a school record five individual victories and the second lowest scoring average in Georgia Tech history, Schniederjans did not enjoy as much success as a senior, going winless after a victory in the team’s annual Fall opener in the Carpet Capital at The Farm outside Dalton.
Schniederjans’ Georgia Tech career ended on a sour note, as he played poorly in the final round of the NCAA Championship and the team narrowly missed qualifying for match play. The previous year, Schniederjans tied for first in the individual competition in the NCAA Championship, finishing second in a playoff.
“I kind of lost myself, my game a little bit,” Schniederjans said. “Just in the process I’ve gained some tools and I’ve gotten better, and I feel like I can compete at any level after playing the U.S. Open and The Open here. Definitely a lot of confidence.”
Schniederjans entered Georgia Tech in 2011 after an outstanding junior career that had him ranked as high as fourth among all juniors. He was part of two state championship high school teams at Harrison in Cobb County, and also won the Georgia PGA Junior Championship.
From the outset, Schniederjans was a starter for the Yellow Jackets as a freshman, and emerged as a top player late in the season, tying for seventh in the ACC Championship and for 15th in the NCAA Regionals.
He recorded six top-10 finishes as a sophomore, including a tie for second in Puerto Rico and a tie for eighth in the NCAA Championship at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course. He won the decisive match in the quarterfinals of match play on the 19th hole before Tech lost in the semifinals to eventual national champion Alabama.
That summer, Schniederjans won his U.S. Amateur qualifier, reached match play in the championship event and posted a pair of top-10 showings in the Dogwood at Druid Hills and the Southern Amateur.
That fall, Schniederjans shared medalist honors in the Carpet Capital and won the U.S Collegiate Championship at Golf Club of Georgia outright, finishing no lower than fourth in Georgia Tech’s four fall tournaments.
He closed out Tech’s spring schedule with three straight victories, the last in the ACC Championship., before placing second at Regionals, followed by his playoff loss in the NCAAs. His five titles broke the school record of four held by David Duval, Stewart Cink and Troy Matteson, and he was a finalist for two top national awards for NCAA golfers.
Schniederjans continued his outstanding play that summer, placing second in the Dogwood and fourth in the Southern Amateur, finishing one shot out of a playoff in the latter. He reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club, losing to tournament champion Gunn Yang 1-up.
Prior to his U.S. Amateur showing, Schniederjans made his first starts in professional events. He tied for fifth in a Web.com Tour event in Wichita, shooting 64 in the opening round and following with scores of 65 and 67 the final two days. He then flew to England and went 3-1 in the Palmer Cup, an annual event matching top college players from the U.S. and Europe. He played the next week in the Scottish Open and finished in the middle of the pack of a strong field of European and U.S. PGA Tour players.
Schniederjans made two more professional starts during his senior season at Georgia Tech, competing in the European Tour Abu Dhabi Championship and the PGA Tour event in Tampa, earning the latter spot with his victory in a college tournament at the host course the year before.
Although he posted a number of top finishes throughout his senior season, Schniederjans did not win after the Fall-opening Carpet Capitol and struggled in the NCAA Championship, with the Yellow Jackets missing out on match play after qualifying the two previous years.
“It’s not fun when you have no control over your golf game,” Schneiderjans said after the British Open. “It’s fun again. I’m not searching every day.”
With the exemptions into two of golf’s four majors, Schniederjans delayed turning pro for about six weeks following the completion of his senior season.
“I really wanted these experiences in two majors,” he said. “I’m absolutely thrilled that I decided to do that. I think it’s developed my game. I think it’s developed me, incredible experiences. I’ve become really comfortable around all these guys.”
After the British Open ended on Monday, he flew to Toronto and made his debut as a pro on Thursday. He shot 1-under 71 in the opening round, rallying with four birdies on the front nine for a 3-under 32 after shooting 2-over on his opening nine with four bogeys. He was outside the cut line after 10 holes Friday, but birdied three of his last seven for a 69 to make the cut by two at 4-under 140.
Schniederjans moved into contention with a third round 66, surviving back-to-back bogeys on the back nine that could have derailed his efforts. He was 5-under after 11 thanks to a hot putter and a few quality par saves, but an errant drive and a 3-putt led to the bogeys. He closed out his round with a 2-putt birdie on the par-5 16th, followed by two more birdie putts on 17 and 18, and was just outside the top 10 going to the final day.
With four birdies on his first six holes Sunday, Schniederjans was 13-under for the tournament and within a few shots of the leaders before bogeys on his next four holes dropped him down the leader board. A double bogey and a bogey followed later on the back nine, but he got up-and-down for birdie on both the par 5s for birdies coming in, salvaging a 73 that included seven birdies, six bogeys and a double, which resulted from a missed green and a 3-putt from 20 feet.
Schniederjans finished tied for 22nd at 9-under, earning $46,200 and 43.5 FedExCup points. To qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals, which will give him a chance to earn a PGA Tour card for the 2015-16 season, Schniederjans will need to finish the season with a little more than 100 points and finish among the top 200. He hopes to play in two more tournaments after getting a second sponsor’s exemption into the tournament in suburban Washington, D.C., hosted by Tiger Woods.