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Yellow Jackets reach NCAA golf’s Final Four

Georgia Tech's Ollie Schniederjans' playoff putt lifted the Yellow Jackets into the NCAA Final Four on Friday in Milton.

Georgia Tech's Ollie Schniederjans' playoff putt lifted the Yellow Jackets into the NCAA Final Four on Friday in Milton.

MILTON — Seth Reeves couldn’t have picked a much better time and place for his first hole-in-one.

After all, it came in the NCAA championship at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.

But the ace on No. 4 and the eagle 3 that followed on No. 5 almost went for naught Friday.

Reeves dropped his match to UNLV’s Carl Jonson 4 and 3, despite his stunning start, and the loss could have cost Georgia Tech a spot in today’s NCAA semifinals.

“I was praying so hard. I wanted another chance,” he said.

His yellow Jackets teammate Ollie Schniederjans made sure Reeves got it.

Forced to an extra hole, Schniederjans stuck his approach shot and made a birdie putt, giving host Georgia Tech a 3-2 victory and advancing the Yellow Jackets to today’s Final Four.

No. 2 seed Georgia Tech will play Alabama, the 2012 NCAA runner-up, for the right to advance to Sunday’s title match. The Crimson Tide defeated New Mexico, 4-1

The other semifinal features top-seeded California against No. 5 Illinois, which defeated defending champion Texas, 3-2. The Bears got a scare before defeating Pac-12 rival Arizona State, 3-2.

That match went to the final hole, with Brandon Hage hitting a nearly perfect approach to set up the birdie. The Tech match followed a similar script, but on an extra hole.

Schniederjans placed his second shot from about 110 yards out a couple feet of the cup before sinking the birdie putt to beat Kevin Penner, who had made a 50-footer on No. 17 to tie.

“I knew everything was on the line, but I called on my experience and felt really calm,” the sophomore said. “It was a great match. He played very well.”

Nobody, though, could rival the way Reeves started his round.

“It really got everyone fired up,” he said.

Reeves’ 6-iron shot on the 216-yard par-3 third hole hit about 10 feet in front of the cup and rolled in.

“It was a perfect shot,” Reeves said. “It felt so good.”

Then he had his second eagled in two days, booming a long drive on par-5 fifth hole. But Jonson took the lead on No. 9 and closed Reeves out on No. 15.

“I wasn’t playing that bad, but he was really good,” said Reeves, who was glad to join the celebrating when Schniederjans kept Tech’s title hopes alive.

“These guys are great,” said Tech coach Bruce Heppler of his team’s comeback Friday. “Last year, they missed (out on NCAA nationals) in Oklahoma, they finished sixth (one spot outside the Top 5 that qualifies for nationals) in the regional, and that was awful. They came back with focus and a commitment to do better and learn. They’re a year older, and they got some stuff done here (Friday).”

Tech also got wins from its No. 2 player, Anders Albertson, who defeated Kurt Kitayama, 2 and 1, and its No. 3 player, Bo Andrews, who captured a 3 and 2 win over Nicholas Maruri.

But Friday’s shining moment belonged to Schniederjans.

“I can’t remember many times when I had to play under that kind of pressure,” said Schniederjans. “I was super-calm, but I knew what I had to do. I just felt super-focused and calm now in that kind of situation. I make better swings under that kind of pressure. I don’t know why, but it feels good.”