Bobby Wyatt, of Mobile, Alabama, tees off on the first hole during the Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club on Wednesday. The four-day tournament runs through Saturday. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN.
EAST PROVIDENCE â€” On a day when Texas A&M University graduate Jordan Russell owned Wannamoisett Country Club, firing a phenomenal six-under 63 to lead the first round of the 51st Northeast Amateur Golf Tournament, the University of Central Florida's Brad Schneider proved to be the model of consistency.
View more articles in:
Schneider, a 23-year-old native of Valrico, Fla., teed off on the 10th hole at high noon Wednesday, and found himself at even-par through his first seven. He, however, sank a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-five 17th, then quietly birdied the eighth while coming home and posted a three-under 66.
That placed him in a second-place tie with Russell's teammate, Johannes Veerman of Sugar Land, Tex.
What made Schneider's score all the more riveting wasn't the fact the temperature climbed to the high 90s during his round, but instead â€“ just four years ago â€“ doctors told him he may never walk again.
As a senior at Bloomingdale High School in Valrico, he and some buddies chose to play some pickup tackle football on Thanksgiving eve 2006. He evidently had slipped behind a friend while attempting to snag a pass and was hauled down by his shoulders.
The next thing he knew, Schneider could see his right sneaker just inches from his nose, and â€“ following a â€ś9-1-1â€ť call â€“ an ambulance transported him to Brandon Regional Hospital. The following day, he found himself not watching pro football but having surgery.
It wasn't long after he discovered the shattered leg wasn't his lone injury.
â€śI suffered a broken right femur, then I had complications in my lower left leg,â€ť he said while sitting in the cool air of Wannamoisett's Donald Ross Room following his round. â€śAfter the surgery, I felt some intense pain in my left leg, and doctors told me it was from 'Compartment Syndrome.'â€ť
It's a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment; fluid and air build up in the muscle tissue, and normal blood flow is blocked.
â€śI severed the nerve that allows the muscle to lift the foot up and side to side,â€ť he noted.
Schneider underwent five more surgeries over the next eight days, and the pressure in his left calf killed 80 percent of the muscle and tissue within the perennial nerve. That's the nerve that runs from knee to ankle, and it's responsible for telling the brain to fire signals to control foot movement.
He spent nearly a month in the hospital, though was supposed to spend four. With his mom, Rebecca, being a registered nurse, she chose to take care of him. His weight plummeted from 150 to under 100, he said, due to his lack of appetite from the medications he was taking.
A plastic surgeon later closed the wound with a skin graft.
Schneider had to be taught how to walk again, and â€“ with grit and determination â€“ he got himself back on a golf course eight months later, though only to chip and putt. He seriously doubted if he'd ever be able to play the game he loved.
As a medical red-shirt freshman at UCF, he received more horrifying news â€“ his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and physicians gave her six months to a year to live. The summer before he entered his sophomore year, Schneider lost both Rebecca, who battled the disease for approximately two years, and his grandma in the same week in 2009.
Undaunted, nearly 48 months after his accident, he played a round at Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando and shot a two-under 70. His confidence ballooned, and he led the Knights to four straight NCAA Regional Tournament appearances.
This past season, he placed third in the USF Invitational and second in the Bancorp South Intercollegiate Championships. The pinnacle, however, came this spring. For his want to fight through all he had experienced, the College Golf Coaches Association of America voted him the David Toms Award winner.
â€śIt recognizes someone (a collegiate linksman) who overcomes adversity,â€ť Schneider mentioned softly. He then mentioned he must play with a brace around his left ankle; he lifted his pants leg to show present scribes the brace and scar.
He graduated from UCF with a finance degree just a month ago, but hopes to make some waves on the amateur circuit this summer.
He also claimed he didn't play well at the Sunnehanna Amateur earlier this month, but more than tamed the Wannamoisett â€śbeastâ€ť on Wednesday.
â€śIt was hot, it was humid and the wind wasn't cool; it was just like Florida,â€ť he joked. â€śI played here two years ago, but not real well. I think I placed (somewhere between) 30th, 40th. I think I felt a little more comfortable this time. I knew where to miss it, where to hit it.
â€śI left myself in good position on a lot of holes, and I putted real well,â€ť he added. â€śI hit it in the fairway, and â€“ if I missed it in the rough â€“ I just wanted to put it somewhere on the green. I practiced in this weather for two weeks in Florida. I didn't do that well at Sunnehanna, and it was the same thing here (two years before). I wasn't comfortable with it.â€ť
As for Russell, who in May captured the Big 12 Conference championship at Whispering Pines in Trinity, Tex., he began his round 48 minutes after Schneider on the first hole and went out with two birdies and a bogey for a front-side 33.
On the back, though, he mustered birds at the 10th (with a 30-foot putt), 13th (a short one), 15th (25 feet), 17th (18 inches); and 18th (a 20-footer). With those five birdies on the back, he shot a premier 30 to pace the field by three strokes.
The outing was a far cry from his season with the Aggies â€“ or from his finish last summer at the Northeast, where he shot 68-67-69-72 for an even-par 276. That delivered him a tie for 22nd.
â€śIt was pretty disappointing; I struggled this year,â€ť he offered. â€śI think I only finished in the top five, like, three times â€¦ Last year (at Wannamoisett), I remember the scores being really low, and I didn't know how they were doing it. I was glad just to come in at one- or two-under.
â€śI think I had good speed on the greens (Wednesday), and that helped a lot,â€ť he continued. â€śPlaying here last year helped me know where the slopes were. I had some good approaches, too. If you're in the rough, you just try to get it around the green.â€ť
He also stated that, as the lone Aggie to play the Northeast last June, he provided information to his teammates who were invited this time.
â€śI told the guys what a great tournament it is, and what a great course you have here,â€ť he grinned. â€śThey couldn't wait to come.â€ť
Perhaps that â€śinsideâ€ť information is why Veerman manufactured a 66, and owns the runner-up slot with Schneider. Still, Veerman took a roller-coaster route to get there.
He began on the 10th at 8:08 a.m., and posted four birds and a pair of bogeys on the front nine. He then recorded birdies at the 11th and 12th, double-bogeyed the short, par-four 13th, then garnered birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 before parring in.
CHIP SHOTS: A year ago at the Northeast, 22 players broke par on Day No. 1. This time, 23 did, though tourney director Denny Glass indicated that's not very unusual for the initial round, not with easier pin placements.
After Russell, Schneider and Veerman, seven were tied for fourth at two-under 67, and 13 more knotted at one-under 68, including North Attleboro's own Chris Congdon, easily the top local on Wednesday.
Another eight remain in the hunt at even, among them Tommy McDonagh of Norwalk, Conn.
For more information on today's tee times, visit www.northeastamateur.com.