He wants his golf game to keep getting better, and with that, win more tournaments.
It would be hard to imagine the former Harrison High School and current Georgia Tech star’s game getting much better than it is right now.
As a junior, Schniederjans has become the first Yellow Jacket to win five golf tournaments in a season. In 14 events, he has eight top-five finishes and nine top-10s.
He was also selected to play in this summer’s Palmer Cup — a collegiate version of the Ryder Cup against Great Britain — in England, and he was a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award, golf’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
Despite all the accolades, Schniederjans understands what the big picture is in front of him.
“I think it means I’ve had a good year this year,” Schniederjans said during a recent interview at the Dellinger Center, on-campus home for the Georgia Tech golf program. “But I don’t think it means anything for the future. I’m proud of my year this year, but the more success you get, the more it doesn’t matter if you don’t keep it up.”
For Schniederjans, who will turn 21 next month, it’s the kind of success he always imagined he would have when he was playing junior golf.
“I thought of becoming the No. 1 junior golfer in the world as soon as I got out on the scene in junior golf and looked at my competition,” he said. “I knew what I was doing, work-wise, was as thorough and as smart as anyone else was doing and I believed I was as smart and as talented as anyone I saw, and that was all the conformation I needed to figure out how I could become the best player.”
Schniederjans never quite made it to No. 1 as a junior golfer, but he may have an opportunity to do that one better.
He’s currently ranked No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Two of the three players immediately ahead of him will be turning pro once this week’s NCAA championships are completed. With a good finish in Hutchinson, Kan., Schniederjans could quickly find himself as the world’s top-ranked amateur player.
Even that, Schniederjans is taking in stride.
“It would mean that I’ve had the best year of anyone that is an amateur golfer in the world. That’s what it would mean to me,” said Schniederjans, who has a 3.3 grade-point average and is on pace to get his business management degree. “That’s the realistic way to look at it. Over the last 52 weeks, for anyone that is not a professional, I’ve played the best golf.”
By taking his game to an elite level, it’s hard to remember when Schniederjans wasn’t playing as well. But that was the case his first year-and-a-half on campus.
“He’s finally getting settled into his place,” Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler said. “When you come in and you’ve played at the highest levels of junior golf, there is a lot of expected of you and it takes time to adjust. It’s just expectations, because the only thing you can do is fail. I think now he is getting comfortable with his role and his game.”
Schniederjans didn’t fail early on, he had a combined eight top-10 finishes as a freshman and sophomore, but no wins. That began to change when he altered the approach to his game off the tee and reigned in his driver.
“I’ve learned it’s more important to keep the ball in play,” said Schniederjans, who averages more than 300 yards off the tee. “I still hit it plenty far enough, and the ball’s in play and I give myself birdie chances.
“I was difficult (to learn), because I prided myself on how far I hit it for so long, and when I kind of let go of that, it was beneficial.”
Once Schniederjans knew the ball would be in the fairway, he started learning how to win. There were two specific moments he pointed to as to what jumpstarted his great play.
“The two most obvious ones are eagling the last hole at the U.S. Collegiate my sophomore year, to help us win that tournament by one shot, and then last year in the NCAAs, winning in sudden death to go to the final four,” Schniederjans said.
The latter came thanks to a wedge shot that stopped 2 feet from the hole. Schniederjans beat UNLV’s Kevin Prenner on the first hole of sudden death with a birdie.
With all his new-found knowledge, and based on the year he’s had, Schniederjans knows that, for people on the outside looking in, turning pro right might be the next logical step.
Schniederjans doesn’t see it that way.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into that, and for me to take full advantage of the success that I’ve had, I need to be able to plan accordingly,” he said. “Where am I going to live? What tournaments am I going to get in? Who’s going to be my agent? What clothes am I going to wear? All kinds of stuff I have to figure out.
“That’s common for guys who get to the top. They’ll take an extra six months or so before they turn pro to figure all that stuff out. You can’t just turn pro and think you are going to have a schedule and sponsors. It takes time.”
As examples, Schniederjans singled out Patrick Reed, a former Georgia and Augusta State golfer who has already won three times on the PGA Tour, and rookie sensation Jordan Spieth, who won the John Deere Classic at 19, made the Presidents Cup team and has already earned more than $7 million.
“Reed could have turned pro after two years, but he took another year,” Schniederjans said. “Spieth could have turned pro after his freshman year, but he took an extra six months.”
Schniederjans may not be ready to turn pro, but his summer schedule certainly shows he’s preparing for when he does give up his amateur status.
After the NCAA championships, he will play in a sectional qualifier at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek course in Roswell, with the hopes of advancing to next month’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C. The week after the Open, he will play in the Air Capital Classic, a Web.com Tour event in Kansas, and then he will head for England.
When Schniederjans is done representing the U.S. in the Palmer Cup, he will stay in England with the hopes of qualifying for the British Open, and he’s hoping to get a sponsors’ exemption into the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in July.
“It’s an opportunity to know what I’m preparing for,” Schniederjans said. “Is it going to give me an idea of what I need to work on? I don’t know — that’s why I’m doing it. It can open doors for other things. It will be good for my World Amateur ranking if I do well, and it will be fun.”