-Story by Jeff Babineau of Golfweek
Sammy Schmitz, the three-time Minnesota player of the year who captured the 35th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship earlier this month at John's Island Club's West Course in Vero Beach, Fla., said his usual winters up north consist of playing a little hockey and watching a lot of NHL games, which means getting to as many Minnesota Wild games as he can.
As for his golf sticks? Well, they usually get a rest in the wintertime.
“I don’t touch a club until March,” Schmitz said.
Of course, there’s now a pending invitation expected in the Schmitz mailbox to play the Masters at Augusta National in April, a champion's tradition that dates to the late 1980s, and Schmitz wants to be ready when he gets invited. That means he needs to practice and play, likely somewhere far south of his family residence in River Falls, Wis., just over the Minnesota state line.
Schmitz has a normal day job working as a regional director for a healthcare-services company; his wife, Natalie, is a nurse.
The family’s journey to prepare for the Masters, potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, won’t be cheap, and Natalie said there are only so many extra shifts she can pick up. The Schmitzes have two young daughters and have been concerned about the high cost of tournament fees (to some of the Mid-Am and amateur events that would help Sammy keep his game sharp), travel, caddies and lodging.
Earlier this week, Natalie set up a GoFundMe account, initially targeting $30,000 (and later adjusted to $25,000), to financially aid the family with its journey. As of Tuesday evening, the fund from anonymous donors had reached $25,219 in three days, and the family is no longer accepting donations.
Schmitz, who did not return a call placed to his cellphone, wrote “I feel so blessed to have so many supporters in our life.” He also noted that the page and fundraising concept had been approved by the U.S. Golf Association, which oversees the amateur status of players.
A spokesperson for the USGA released the following: “Raising funds for reasonable competition expenses is permissible under the Rules of Amateur Status as long as a state and/or regional golf association is involved in the administration of the fund and any donations remain anonymous. The USGA has and will continue to work with all parties involved.”
In this case, any unused money would be passed on to the Minnesota Golf Association. The USGA will pass along names and contact information from the fund’s list of “anonymous” donors to Schmitz, who plans to thank those who have supported him so generously.
Bring on the winter!