After sitting with him for more than an hour a couple of weeks ago to do an in-depth interview, it was clear that there were two stories to tell.
The first was about the success a mild-mannered young man from Harrison High School was having as a member of the Georgia Tech golf program. The second was about his off-the-charts level of confidence, but the latter I had no idea how I was going to convey without making it sound like Schniederjans was conceited.
That was until I heard what Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee had to say to the crowd at the Ben Hogan Award banquet Sunday.
Schniederjans was one of three finalists for the award annually given to the nation’s best college golfer. But before the award presentation, Chamblee was asked what Schniederjans and the other collegiate players in attendance could expect if and when they finally arrive on the PGA Tour.
“The players that make it — there’s no other way to say it — are arrogant,” said Chamblee, a former PGA journeyman. “Now, you can be arrogant and likeable, but you have to be arrogant. You have to have an unbelievable amount of belief to go with that talent.”
That is Schniederjans to a tee, only I’ll reverse it.
He’s likeable and arrogant.
Example No. 1:
In eight days, he will play at a U.S. Open sectional tournament in Roswell. History says there will be three players from that event that will advance to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Schniederjans fully expects to be one of those three.
“I know I’m going to have to shoot a really low score,” said Schniederjans, who shot rounds of 71-65 and is tied for sixth at 4-under par heading into today’s third round of the NCAA championships. “But I am so capable of that here in Georgia. Any time I play in this area — if I have to go shoot 11-under, then I’ll just go and do it.
“I’ve done it so many times. When I’m practicing, I’m looking at hitting it dead straight at my target every time. If I do that all day, I’m going to have 15 or 16 real good birdie chances and I’m a great putter, so I’ll make five or six or seven of them.”
There was a time I was a very good player. If I shot 76 it was a bad day, but there is no way I could ever fathom the mindset it takes to know that shooting 11-under par is no more a problem than rolling out of bed in the morning.
But there was no bragging in his voice. It wasn't trash talk. He’s was just stating what he considers to be a fact.
Example No. 2:
Schniederjans has actually been in that position before. In 2011, after his junior year of high school, he was in the mix for one of the three qualifying spots when the sectional was held at Hawks Ridge in Ball Ground.
After having a share of the lead after shooting 66 in the morning, Schniederjans was 2-under on his second 18 when he reached the par-5 fourth, the 13th hole of his round. After hitting his second shot into a greenside bunker, he blasted his third shot to within a foot of the hole, but instead of a tap-in birdie, he missed the putt.
Instead of dreading on that moment, Schniederjans played the last five holes 2-under par. He went on to finish one shot out of a playoff for the third and final qualifying spot.
When I asked him what he remembers about that moment, it should be no surprise.
It wasn’t the putt.
“I actually completely forgot that I missed that 1-footer,” he said. “Whenever I think about that, I think about the two 20-footers I made on the last two holes. I really, honestly, did kind of forget about that 1-footer. I think it was a bit of a fluke, but the way I refocused and played hard coming in is what I remember. I’m not easily flappable.”
Schniederjans has won five tournaments this year and has finished outside the top 12 only once in 14 events.
He’s going to represent the U.S. in England at next month’s Palmer Cup, and he’s got his sights on playing in the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur and next year’s Masters.
Not bad for being only three years removed from playing his home matches in west Cobb at Brookstone Golf and Country Club.
As I continued to listen to Chamblee address the Hogan Award banquet attendees, he reminded Schniederjans and the other finalists that, regardless of what they do going forward, they have already achieved more in the game of golf than only a fraction of a percent of players ever will.
But that would never be enough for the Powder Springs native.
Chamblee’s words about the players needing to be arrogant reminded me of a quote that was once offered about the greatest golfer in the history of the game, Jack Nicklaus.
“He was so good.” Former PGA player J.C. Snead said, “When you go head-to-head against Nicklaus, he knows he’s going to beat you, you know he’s going to beat you, and he knows you know he’s going to beat you.”
Nicklaus wasn’t the kind of player who disrespected an opponent. He knew he was good and let his clubs do his talking.
That’s the way Schniederjans is playing in the collegiate ranks right now.
I’m anxious to see what’s next.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at sportseditor@mdjonline or on Twitter @jbednarowski.