Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ollie Schniederjans' younger brother racks up 2nd win

Ollie Schniederjans has been one of the most impressive rookies on the PGA Tour this season, racking up a trio of top-10 finishes.

His younger brother, Luke, has made quite a debut, too – in college.

Luke Schniederjans, a freshman at Georgia Tech, closed with a 65 Tuesday to win the Puerto Rico Classic. It was the 18-year-old’s second victory of the season, putting him not only in the early mix for Player of the Year honors, but well ahead of his older brother’s pace (Ollie had six career college titles, but none until his junior year). 

Still, they are massive FootJoys to fill.

Ollie, who graduated in 2015, was a three-time All-American and former McCormack Medal winner as the top-ranked amateur in the world. He’s one of the most successful players tradition-rich Tech has ever produced. (His other brother, Ben, 21, pitches for the Yellow Jackets.)

“The challenge for Luke is that there’s a shadow there,” Tech coach Bruce Heppler said by phone Tuesday. “Some people can handle it, and some people can’t. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him.

“His vision is wider. His whole outlook is the guy that’s No. 35 in the FedEx Cup. He’s looking and practicing and talking to a Tour player. That’s the advantage. He’s looking at things well beyond what most college guys do.”

Unlike Ollie, Luke wasn’t a highly recruited junior player, but he still was a no-brainer prospect for Heppler. 

“There’s a belief gene,” Heppler said. “The record wasn’t great. He hadn’t done much. But you figure the size will catch up with him, and you have the belief that he’ll eventually become a good player.”

Since graduating early from high school, Luke, listed at 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, has added about 15 pounds of muscle and 30 yards of distance. “He’s a big boy now,” Heppler said.

The biggest difference in their games? Ollie prefers to hit low lasers around the course, while Luke is a high-ball hitter with full command of his driver.

“So straight,” said Ollie, 23. “So pure.”

In the fall, Schniederjans won in his first college start, at the loaded Carpet Capital Collegiate, where he shot 11 under to top the 78-man field. He added a top-15 finish in his next start.

Schniederjans entered this week’s event with a 71.33 scoring average but was coming off a rough performance at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii, where he tied for 81st. In Puerto Rico, he shot rounds of 68-73-65 to beat Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer by a stroke.

“Winning twice as a freshman is not easy to do,” Heppler said. “You don’t anticipate that. You think he’ll grow into it and eventually he’ll get there, but he’s ahead of schedule for sure.”

In a few years, Luke likely will join Ollie in the pro ranks. Easily recognizable on Tour as the only player without a hat, Schniederjans has the most top-10s of any rookie this season, though Mackenzie Hughes and Cody Gribble both earned titles.

Schniederjans had his own opportunity, at Sea Island, but two back-nine mistakes cost him a chance at a playoff. The tie for sixth was a much-needed confidence boost after struggling with his ball-striking to begin the fall.

“I know how to win golf tournaments,” he said last month at Torrey Pines, where he tied for ninth. “When my game is good enough to put myself in contention, I know it is good enough to win at this level.”

Luke’s game has proven to be good enough, too.


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