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Craguns 2017

Local Golf
July 22, 2017

Sammy Schmitz - Hole-In-One Sends Minnesota Amateur To The Masters
RJ Smiley

Sammy Schmitz's Hole-In-One on the par-4 15th hole (33rd hole in the 36 hole final) in the final match of the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship at John's Island Club in Vero Beach, FL drove a nail in the hart of Mark Dull- and, earned Sammy a ticket to the 2016 Masters.

"I've had one hole-in-one in my life, and it was in a nine-hole scramble event. This was the second. You really never expect it to go in," said the Farmington, Minnesota native who plays golf out of Valleywood in Apple Valley. Standing on the 15th hole with a two-up lead is always nice, but Dull who had just won the 14th was feeling confident with the honor. Dull's tee shot was a weak hook just left of the green 290 yards away; leaving Sammy an opening.

Now, Sammy Schmitz, three times MGA Player of the Year, was standing on the tee with a driver in his hand. Sammy had driven his tee shot onto the green four times in previous matches earlier in the week. Schmitz, who likes to hit a high controlled fade, felt the breeze on his right cheek. "It was a perfect shot for me. I felt very confident standing over the ball. When I hit the tee shot, I knew it was going to be good. We took a few steps and then heard the roar from the gallery. I knew it went in."

Standing on the 16th tee, Schmitz needed only a par to finish his Championship Match 3&2. During the few minutes in a cart riding back to the clubhouse, Schmitz started thinking about the Masters - only five months away.

Sammy has been extremely busy since his USGA victory. Working full time, as a regional director of a health care company, and the father of two little girls, the River Falls, WI resident has had an interesting balancing act with work, being a father and Masters preparation.

The question: Is Sammy ready for the Masters? Only time will tell, but his preparation has gone well. Earlier this year Sammy and fellow Minnesotan, Jesse Polk, won the International 4-Ball Championship at The Fox Club in Palm City, FL. Sammy and Jesse captured the 54 hole event by three strokes shooting 63 in the final round. Joe Greupner, Sammy's swing coach and golf professional at Braemar, said that Sammy had 15 birdies in three rounds.

Sammy, his caddy Jon Hanner, and Greupner, recently traveled to Augusta National for some practice and to get a better understanding of the golf course. Augusta has built a special new driving range especially for The Masters. The Masters range is used only for the tournament and tournament qualifiers that come to play practice rounds. Greupner told me, "One day Sammy was the only player on the range. It is the best practice range I have ever seen."

Schmitz will not be a stranger to some of the players who will compete in the 2016 Masters. Sammy spent two years chasing dollars and his golf ball on the Hooter's Tour, where some notable players sharpened their game. He lived in Pensacola and got to know a few of the Florida natives.

"After a few years, I didn't feel that my game was developing to the point where I could really compete. That was okay. I'm very happy now. I love playing amateur golf. I have a good job and a good family. Amateur's are mostly family people with jobs, trying to still play golf for fun, and that's okay with me."

So you are asking yourself, how does a young working guy with little kids have enough money to go to the Masters and compete? We are living in the Internet age where anything is possible. Sammy's wife, Natalie, started a GoFundMe.com website to see if they could generate a few thousand dollars to help cover the expenses of the Masters. "We set a goal to raise $30,000, but I never thought we would get anything like that." Little did Sammy know how giving Minnesota golfers could be. Within three days 228 people had made donations totaling $25,242. Natalie and Sammy closed the website with enough money to fund the Masters trips. The donations are kept in a special account at the MGA office to cover Sammy's expenses.

When asked what his goal for the week would be, Sammy replied, "No Mid-Am Champion has ever made the cut at the Masters. It would be great to be the first."

It would be exciting to see a local boy make the cut. Maybe get some TV time. But no matter what happens Sammy has agreed to share his Masters experience with the readers of Tee Times. Watch for the column in the May issue.

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