British OpenJuly 20, 2015

The British Open amateur you should be paying attention to just turned pro

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Ollie Schniederjans had just finish his amateur career in style, the Georgia Tech graduate shooting a five-under 67 in the final round of the Open Championship at the Old Course to secure a likely top-25 finish. But rather than think about his fond farewell, he was focused on his bright future.

"I've just got a lot of confidence run now," he said. "I'm ready to go. My game is in the best place it's ever been. I felt great the last two or three weeks."

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The 22-year-old from Powder Springs, Ga., will make his pro debut at this week's RBC Canadian Open on a sponsor's exemption, before playing the following week at the Quicken Loan Championship. He also is in line to get exemptions into a pair of other PGA Tour events this summer, hoping that be can somehow earn enough money in these starts to earn a card on tour and avoid an apprenticeship on the Web.com Tour.

It's not outrageous to think that Schniederjans can do it. A contemporary of several current PGA Tour players -- he's part of the same high school class of 2011 as Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Rodgers -- Schniederjans went the road less traveled by staying four years in college. In the process he earned first-team All-American honors two times and finished last summer as the No. 1 amateur in the world, which secured him exemptions into this year's U.S. and British Opens.

"I'm biased," Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler when I talked to him last month about Schniederjans, "but I haven't seen a player with his golf skills and his maturity off the course in a while. He's got an 'it' that is pretty special."

He showed some of "it" the past five weeks, making the cut at the Chambers Bay and here at St. Andrews, becoming only the third amateur to that in both Opens in the same year since 1960 (the others being Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods).

If Schniederjans was tempted to turn pro after the end of his senior year in June, it was offset by the chance to play at Chambers Bay and St. Andrews. The decision proved critical in getting him set for the transition to the pro game.

"I really wanted these experiences in two majors, and I'm absolutely thrilled that I decided to do that. I think it's developed my game," said Schniederjans, who also played and made the cut at last week's Scottish Open. "I think it's developed me, incredible experiences. I've become really comfortable around all these guys. I've made good friends with some of the best players in the world, and it's been really cool to learn from them and play some practice rounds with them and catch up with Jordan who's having a decent year and get to know Phil and play a practice round with him. I feel comfortable out here."

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