Schniederjans 'committed' to staying amateur
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
There's little doubt that Ollie Schniederjans' game is pro-ready.
He won five times during his junior season at Georgia Tech and was runner-up at the NCAA Championship in May, also earning ACC player of the year and first-team All-American honors among a handful of accolades. Last week, he tied for fifth in his first pro tournament, the Web.com Tour's Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kan., which he played as an amateur.
"I definitely think I'm ready (to turn pro)," Schniederjans said Monday via phone. "But I'll be more ready in a year. It's just not my time right now."
When will that time be? Schniederjans has a couple of scenarios that he's thought about – neither of them, though, involve turning pro at any time this year.
The first – and most desired – plan for the rising Georgia Tech senior is to win or finish runner-up at the U.S. Amateur in August and take advantage of the exemptions that go along with those finishes. He'd then likely want to remain amateur through the 2015 Walker Cup before turning pro. The other possibility is turning pro after next year's NCAA Championship, assuming he fails to earn any amateur-only exemptions.
He also ruled out turning pro after the Yellow Jackets' fall season, similar to what Jordan Spieth did two winters ago at Texas and Michael Kim did last winter at Cal. Spieth, of course, is already a PGA Tour winner and one of the top pros in the world.
"You see what Spieth is doing and I don't believe that I can't do that right now, too, but that's not the only reason to turn pro," Schniederjans said. "There's no sense in jumping in early with no plan. Right now, I don't know who I'd sign with, I don't know where I'd live, and you look at all the good players who just turned pro out of college and taken most of the spots (in PGA and Web.com tour events), and there's just not a lot of opportunity out there."
Had Schniederjans won in his Web.com Tour start last week, he still said it would've been difficult to give up his amateur status, but that he would've had to think about it. He then added that he's "pretty committed" to finishing out his amateur career.
"I'm not thinking about (turning pro) at all," Schniederjans said. "I'm just taking care of my golf."
And he's done a good job of that. He opened with a 6-under 64 in Wichita, Kan., before shooting 71 in the second round – "I played some good golf that first day and then had a rough stretch where I was flirting with missing the cut," Schniederjans said. "But I was really proud of the way I came back and got myself back into contention."
Schniederjans closed 65-67 and even added an ace during the final round.
"It was really fun," Schniederjans said. "They had some fun crowds. It was exciting, a lot of fun holes and a lot of risk-reward holes."
For Schniederjans, his pro experience was all reward – "the more pro events I can play in right now, the more experience I'll have when I do decide to turn pro," he said. "And it's great for my amateur ranking."
Schniederjans recently ascended to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and he'll likely still hold that top spot when he plays in the U.S. Amateur, Aug. 11-17 at Atlanta Athletic Club – a home game of sorts for the Powder Springs, Ga., who always dreamed of being the world's best.
"When I was a junior, I always wanted to be the No. 1 junior in the world," Schniederjans said. "I got as high as second, but never No. 1. Then when I got to college, I wanted to be the top amateur in the world. I think I was like No. 250 (in the WAGR) my freshman year, but I still believed.
"(Being the top amateur) does mean a lot to me and I want to hold onto it as long as I can. … I have a chance to be the No. 1 amateur for the U.S. Amateur in basically my hometown – that's pretty special."
Schniederjans still has a lot of those special opportunities as an amateur. He'll represent the U.S. at the Palmer Cup this week at Walton Heath Golf Club near London – he turned down his exemption into this week's Web.com Tour event in Indiana. After that, he'll remain across the pond for an Open Championship qualifier at Sunningdale Golf Club. If he doesn't qualify, he could play the Players and Southern amateurs.
As for pro events, he doesn't plan on any more starts this summer. But if he earns a spot at Royal Liverpool, you can bet Schniederjans will be ready for the opportunity.
"I wasn't nervous at any time," Schniederjans said of his Web.com Tour start last week. "It's weird because I'm not afraid to be nervous, and I was actually kind of bummed because when I get nervous I seem to get more focused."
But Schniederjans didn't need those nerves to perform well. Instead, he's playing off confidence and pure talent. Perhaps, that's a sign he's ready to join the pro ranks. Yet, Schniederjans is in no rush.
"I know one day I'll be there," he said.
For now, he's going to enjoy his title as the world's best amateur.