LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Georgia Tech. University of Georgia.
Not too much common ground between these two schools from the Peach State, especially when it comes to athletics, including golf.
Yet they did have something in common after the opening round Wednesday of the 106th Southern Amateur Championship at Chenal Country Club.
With the starting field of 168 battling near triple-digit temperatures, the day ended with a Yellow Jacket and a Bulldog leading the way.
Oliver Schniederjans, a rising sophomore at Georgia Tech, and Keith Mitchell, a rising junior at Georgia, fired 4-under 68s on the Bear Den course to top the leaderboard.
They held a one-shot advantage over Floridians Motin Yeung of Orlando and Brad Schneider. Six other players were at 2-under 70, with 11 players coming in at 71, including Alabama junior Bobby Wyatt, who last month won the Sunnehanna Amateur and entered this week’s event ranked No. 1 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings.
Schniederjans has not won a significant tournament since he captured the 2009 AJGA Polo Junior Classic, and he’s hoping to change that this week.
Starting on the back nine, Schniederjans came out quickly with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. He made his lone bogey at the 12th when he missed a 3-foot par putt, but then added birdies at Nos. 15, 1 and 2. Two of his five birdies came on tap-in putts, and the longest of the other three was a 15-footer.
“I really hit it awesome,” Schniederjans said. “I didn’t make any mistakes and just played steady. The golf course is in great condition and is visually clear cut.
“My main goal starting out today was to get myself in the tournament, so from that standpoint I can’t ask for a better start,” said Schniederjans, from Powder Springs, Ga., just north of Atlanta.
As a freshman at Georgia Tech last season, he had 11 starts and posted two top 10s, including a T-7 in helping the Yellow Jackets win the Atlantic Coast Conference title. He also tied for 15th at the NCAA Southwest Regional.
Schniederjans said hitting 12 of 14 fairways was the key and that he used driver only once, on his closing hole, No. 9.
Mitchell’s round was exceptional in that he did not have a bogey on this difficult 7,326-yard layout. He birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 7 to turn in 33 and closed out his day with a birdie at 472-yard, par-4 18th hole.
Mitchell, from Chattanooga, Tenn., has had some solid success this year, finishing third at the Azalea Amateur, tying for ninth at the NCAA Championship and finishing fifth at the Southeastern Amateur.
Schneider, a recent Central Florida graduate from Valrico and a quarterfinalist earlier this month at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, had six birdies against three bogeys. Starting on the 10th hole, Schneider, a semifinalist at the 2011 North & South Amateur, made bogey at 11, but followed with four birdies, on holes 13-16. On the front side, he birdied Nos. 2 and 5 but bogeyed 1 and 4.
Yeung, who will be a freshman at Duke this fall, started on the back side and made birdie at Nos. 10 and 15, only to give them back with bogeys at 16 and 18. He birdied the second and fifth holes and after a bogey at the sixth eagled the par-5 seventh.