He was in his comfort zone Friday as Georgia Tech’s quarterfinal-round NCAA championship match with UNLV came down to his match against the Rebels’ Kevin Penner as their head-to-head affair extended to a 19th hole.
The former Harrison High School star won the match by sinking a 3-foot putt for birdie on hole No. 1, with Penner unable to do any better than par. That lifted the Yellow Jackets to a 3-2 win over UNLV at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.
“You could think of it as so much pressure, but I feel super relaxed,” Schniederjans said. “It’s almost like I feel more uneasy when there’s less pressure than that.”
Knowing it was up to him to keep Georgia Tech’s season alive for at least another day, Schniederjans and Penner headed for the 452-yard, par-4 firsthole.
Both players hit their drivers down the fairway, just over 100 yards from the green. After Penner’s second shot fell short of the green, Schniederjans used his lob wedge to hit a 110-yard shot that landed 3 feet from the flag.
Penner’s chip for birdie came up short, and with his coaches and teammates watching, Schniederjans finished the hole to seal the win and set up Georgia Tech with its semifinal today against No. 3 Alabama.
“I almost blacked out,” teammate Bo Andrews said of Schniederjans’ finish. “I just ran around the green yelling and was glad to advance.”
After watching Schniederjans win on the extra hole, Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler was reminded of last fall’s United States Collegiate Championship last summer in Alpharetta, when Schniederjans eagled the 18th hole to help the Yellow Jackets win after they trailed UCLA by eight strokes.
Heppler asked Schniederjans if he wanted to know the score and what was at stake.
“We’re standing on the 18th fairway and I knew we’re one back and said, ‘Do you want to know?’ and he said, ‘Oh, I already know,’” Heppler recollected. “He hit one of the best 5-irons I’ve ever seen to a foot-and-a-half (from the hole) and made an eagle.”
On Friday, Schniederjans birdied the first hole and made par through the rest of the front nine.
After Schniederjans went 2-up with a chip-in for birdie on No. 10, Penner cut into the lead when he birdied 13. Schniederjans held the lead until the 17th hole, when Penner hit a 50-foot birdie putt.
“It wasn’t ever out of hand,” Schniederjans aid. “The most I got was 2-up, and that’s really nothing. If (Penner) makes a birdie, it’s 1-up. It was close all day. I held on to a 1-up lead, and he finally got it to all-square with one to go. I can only do what I can control, and I can’t control him making that putt.”
Schniederjans will pair up against Alabama’s Cory Whitsett today, again playing out of the anchor position — the fifth match to start, which could ultimately decide what team advances.