Life on Tour can be a grind, but that hasn’t kept rookie Ollie Schniederjans, 23, from a strong start this year. Oh, and a “heads” up to would-be sponsors: Though he doesn’t wear a hat, he is open to offers.
You had a celebrated career before you turned pro. You were the No. 1-ranked amateur as well as a three-time All-American at Georgia Tech. Now that you’re a PGA Tour rookie, what has surprised you most about the bigs?
I was able to play a good amount of PGA Tour events right after I graduated and before I turned pro, so I more or less knew what I was getting into. But the biggest surprise was the difficulty of the travel. In college, I was playing 54-hole events maybe 11 times a year. Now I’m playing 72-hole events and traveling week to week. It’s pretty taxing, even for us young guys.
Is the Tour more taxing physically or mentally— or is it about the same?
I would say both but more so mentally. You don’t really have a day off. You’re either traveling, preparing, practicing or playing, so it feels like you’re on seven days per week. It’s not easy physically, but it’s more exhausting emotionally.
Still, you’re having a very good rookie year. Through February of the wraparound Tour season, you’ve notched three top-10s. Not every rookie adjusts so quickly. Have you gotten any advice that’s helped?
Many guys have been helpful and generous: Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar—and even some of the younger guys, like Jordan Spieth, have helped, which is great because I can relate to them a little more. They’ve all told me that learning how to balance your schedule is one of the most important things for a rookie to learn to do.
When you’re a young rookie, you probably want to go out and play every week, but you also have to guard against burnout, right?
Yes, the temptation is to just play everything you can get into until you get higher in the shuffle, and then you can pick and choose. But you have to figure out which tournaments suit your game and how many weeks [of competition] in a row is too much, so you can find a balance. That’s the big learning curve. [On Tour] it’s all about high finishes, so you’re better off picking your battles and then taking a week to rest. You want to have energy on the weekends to push for a top-five finish. You don’t have to play every week. For me, playing four tournaments in a row is total max out. And I can’t do five in a row.
After you graduated from Georgia Tech, you remained an amateur to keep your eligibility for the U.S. Open and British Open. Are you glad you did?
I think it was a good decision. I learned a lot from playing those two tournaments, especially the British Open.
The 2015 British Open, at St. Andrews, was when the golf world took notice. Playing for the last time as an amateur, you shot a final-round 67, including a birdie on No. 18, to tie for 12th place—a strong performance.
I was playing pretty good heading into the tournament, but when I looked up and saw my name on the leaderboard at St. Andrews on the Sunday at the British Open, I was like, “Whoa.” It happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. It was a wild feeling.
You won low-amateur honors at the “15 Open Championship. Still, part of you must have wished you were a pro when you saw how many zeros would have been on a 12th-place check. True?
[Laughs] That brings up another piece of advice I’ve gotten from a few guys: “Learn how to handle how much money you’re playing for.” It’s inevitable in your career that you’re going to play on a Sunday and be like, “Dang, if I had done one or two things differently, I’d be $100,000 richer right now.” I’ve probably missed about half a million dollars worth of putts, but you can’t think about it like that. I’m thankful that I get paid to do for a living what I would do for free.
Your younger brother, Luke, is following in your footsteps—he’s anchoring the golf team at Georgia Tech. Do you think he’ll be on Tour with you one day?
He’s extremely talented, and he’s got the head for it. Luke is all discipline. There’s nothing else he wants to do. You can’t take anything for granted—it’s so hard to make it out on Tour—but he has the tenacity. He’s five years younger than I am, so we never really competed when we were younger, but we do now. And he can play some really good golf and beat me.
What do you need to accomplish this year to consider 2017 a success?
If I can make it to the Tour Championship at East Lake, I’ll have had a great year. That’s the benchmark, and it would help set up my schedule for next year, too. But right now, I think I need to get on my horse and go out and win a tournament so I can get into the majors. Because that’s what we play for.
ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE
I’M NOT A HAT GUY: I’ve never liked wearing a hat when I play. When I was a kid playing baseball, I always flipped up the bill because I didn’t like seeing it out of the corner of my eye. And when I turned pro, I didn’t want to change anything. But how much would a hat sponsor pay? I’m sure I could be bought!