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Ollie Schniederjans ready for career restart after hip surgeries, year-plus away


For much of his golf career, Ollie Schniederjans had showed no signs of slowing down.

As a hotshot junior and part of that vaunted 2011 recruiting class.

As a two-time, first-team All-American at Georgia Tech, where he once won five of six events before losing in a playoff at the NCAA Championship as a junior.

As the world No. 1 amateur for 41 straight weeks, and just the third am since 1960 to make two major cuts in the same summer. Jack and Tiger being the first two.

As a young, promising professional, coming out of the gates hot, quickly winning on the Korn Ferry Tour and nearly nabbing that first career PGA Tour title on a few occasions.

But life in golf’s fast lane isn’t void of tolls.

And Schniederjans, as it turns out, couldn’t run forever.

“Golf is such an exhausting sport,” Schniederjans, now 29, says via phone, “You’re constantly trying to figure things out, and you’re working really hard and you’re on that hamster wheel just every day, every week. And to get off that is definitely…”

He pauses for a second before continuing, “Well, it wouldn’t happen otherwise.”

Of course, Schniederjans didn’t get off the proverbial wheel voluntarily; he was forced off, by a troublesome left hip that served as the culprit for a slew of other injuries.

Now, having not competed in over a year, Schniederjans – and his surgically repaired hips (yes, plural) – is set to put his career back in motion at this week’s Club Car Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Thursday’s opening round will mark his first competitive 18 holes since Jan. 27, 2022.

Expectations? Understandably, Schniederjans’ are tempered.

“This is just a fresh start,” he said Saturday morning before making the trip east from his home in Alpharetta, Georgia, to The Landings Club. “This play is a long-term play. I’m going to have a lot of years ahead of me, and I’m just going to be happy to get started.”

And for once, to be healthy.

Schniederjans has dealt with injuries basically since turning professional in 2015. Even as he worked his way up the Official World Golf Ranking, as high as No. 77 after a T-3 finish at the Phoenix Open in 2018, Schniederjans always seemed to be hurting – back, obliques, neck, hips.

“It just got worse and worse,” said Schniederjans, who began to avoid his tight left hip, putting more pressure on both his other hip and his golf swing.

Predictably, not properly using one’s left side doesn’t translate to consistent ball-striking, and Schniederjans struggled in that department. Basically top 60 in strokes gained: tee-to-green his rookie year, Schniederjans dropped outside the top 160 in each of the next two seasons.

Schniederjans lost his card after the 2018-19 season, the same campaign where he made wholesale team changes – swing coach, trainer, caddie – and totaled just one top-25 and 11 made cuts in 28 starts.

Demoted back to the KFT, Schniederjans would grind out seven top-10s in 35 starts during the tour’s super season. He was in position, points-wise, to return to the big leagues, too, but toward the end of that second summer, Schniederjans’ left shoulder and neck flared up.

“It was killing me,” Schniederjans said. “My body was done.”

He took five weeks off, barely touching a club, and fell to No. 41 in points, missing out on a Tour card by 16 spots. He then tried to compete in the KFT Finals, but he missed the first two cuts before capping his playoff with a T-61.

That’s when Schniederjans sought out Brian Yee of Motion Stability in Buckhead, Georgia. Yee diagnosed Schniederjans’ left hip as the source of Schniederjans’ injuries, and together with Greg Rose, a chiropractor and co-founder of Titleist Performance Institute, they developed a recovery plan.

Initially, the goal was to avoid surgery. Schniederjans took the rest of the year off to focus on his physical therapy. But when Schniederjans returned to competition, at the KFT’s 2022 season opener in the Bahamas, the demands of playing four tournament rounds – Schniederjans finished solo 61st – negated much of his progress. He tried to gut it out the next week, but he shot 77 and then withdrew. He hasn’t played since.

“So, basically one event in 18 months,” Schniederjans said.

For seven of those months, Schniederjans didn’t hit a shot. He underwent surgery on his left hip in February 2022, and then three months later, he had the opposite hip done.

During his recovery, Schniederjans, who hadn’t been much of a golf watcher, found himself purchasing ESPN+ and tuning in most Thursday and Friday mornings.

“It was funny, I did that for a long time,” Schniederjans said.

Schniederjans started chipping late last summer, and he was surprised by just how little rust there was to shake off. And mentally, he called the prolonged break “just amazing.”

Still, the practice progression was tedious, it required a ton of patience, and while Schniederjans is reticent to reveal what’s changed about his swing post-surgery until he logs some tournament reps, he notes that, “I’ve been able to restore a lot of things.”

Now, it’s time to put all that meticulous work under the gun. The next month will be an important barometer for Schniederjans, who will play this week, take the Chile event off, and then test himself over consecutive weeks with starts April 13-16 in Arlington, Texas, and April 20-23 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

On a full medical based on his 2020-21 points finish, Schniederjans will “get to play all year, as much as I can.”

He’ll have to take things slow at first.

“I can’t treat it like nothing happened yet,” he says. “I’m still building up and it’s still very fresh in process.”

But if everything goes to plan, Schniederjans will soon be running again, just like the old days when he was trying to chase down his peers, the likes of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

This time, though, he’s got his blinders on.

“I’ve been through a lot with myself and I’m just so focused on what I need to do each day,” Schniederjans said when asked if he’s missed being out on Tour. “I’ve been able to stay very patient and present with my process, and I pretty much take it one day at a time. Look, obviously my intentions are to be great and to be out there and to do what those guys are doing. I’ve had that intention since I was 14 years old, and that’s never going to change. But I’ve been able to focus on what I need to do, and I have a vision for long term where I want to be.

“I know I want to do this for a long time, and I want to do it the right way, so I’m just focused on me.”