Golf enters season with high expectations

The Tech golf team begins their spring season Feb. 5 in Kohala Coast, Hawaii where they will be playing in the Amer Ari Invitational.

Last year, the Jackets finished in fourth place. With a veteran team, the Jackets look to improve this year. Tech had a successful fall and come into the spring ranked as number two in the nation. In their four tournaments this fall, the team had two first-place and two-second place finishes. Junior Ollie Schniederjans led the Jackets individually with two first place finishes as well as a third and fourth place finish.

After the fall season, Schniderjans was named “Player of the Mid-Season” by Golf World Magazine and is the number one college golfer in the Palmer Cup Rankings. Schniederjans is from Powder Springs, Ga. and attended Harrison High School and has been playing golf for eight years.

The Jackets practice in Alpharetta at the golf club of Georgia so the players make the 30 mile trip up SR 400 several days a week to work on their game.

“Our schedule is different every week depending on how the school schedule is and if we’re in town, but ideally if I have time I go to Alpharetta to go to the Golf Club of Georgia and spend all afternoon up there, then I come back and take care of school work,” Schniederjans said. “We always work out at 6 a.m. so workouts are done early so we have the rest of the day to work on our game and take care of school.”

The Jackets made it to Final Four match play last year in the NCAA tournament and lost to Alabama, who wound up winning the national championship. However, Tech returns the core of last year’s team, including junior Anders Albertson, who won the individual ACC championship last season with a tournament record score of -15.

“We have a very experienced team now. Three seniors and two juniors make up the five players,” Schniederjans said. “We have no excuses and we’ve been through a lot as a team and made it far. We have had our struggles and success and we know what it takes and have a good chance to get it done this year.”

The team has set its goals high and when the season is over, they want to be able to look back on the year and know they gave it their all.

“The thing about having your goal to win the national championship is that it’s just one tournament and you have the other 14 events you play in the year,” Schniederjans said. “Obviously, our goal is to be the best team we can be, which would give us as good [of] a chance [as] any team in the nation to win the final tournament. But, you’re not defined by that one tournament. We just want to play at the level we can and work as hard as we can and be proud of our efforts at the end of the season.”

Schniederjans is excited about the team’s upcoming tournaments and is looking forward to getting out of the cold weather of Atlanta.

“This is my third year making the trip. It’s a complete blast going to Hawaii. We get to get out of the cold and go to 80 degree weather. We go to the beach every day after we play a round. That trip is probably my favorite because I love the beach and weather. It’s a great field; a lot of the best teams are there. Puerto Rico is another nice break. It’s another great tournament, and that’s where we’re finally going to see Alabama this year. Vegas is arguably the strongest tournament we’re going to see this year and maybe the hardest golf course we’ll play all year. I’m very excited to start the spring with three big tournaments,” Schniederjans said.

In the last two decades, Tech has been one of the best and most consistent golf programs in the country.

During his tenure, Coach Bruce Heppler has led the Jackets to nine ACC championships and 10 top eight finishes in the NCAA championships. Tech has been national runner-up three times under Coach Heppler. Seven of his Tech players are now members of the PGA Tour, most notably Matt Kuchar, who is currently ranked as the No. 8 best golfer in the world. Heppler was recently inducted into the Golf Coaches Hall of Fame.

“Having a strong tradition here is definitely a positive. It’s just a testament to Coach Heppler and all he has accomplished here and great players he has coached. Having him as a mentor as someone you can go to and ask what was Kuchar like [is great]. [It’s] nice to be at a place you know is successful,” Schniederjans said.