April 7, 2016, 11:16 AM, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA: “Now driving from the United States, Sammy Schmitz!”
Striding down the first fairway at Augusta National with Mike Weir, former Masters Champion and Cameron Smith, Australian Professional, Sammy Schmitz realized – This is not a dream.
Sammy also realized that he belonged! He had earned his place in the field of the 2016 Masters. Sammy’s Masters experience taught him that fellow Masters competitors treat you with respect. There are no sponsor exemptions. Every player in the field of the 2016 Masters had earned his ticket to the biggest golf tournament in the world. He did not have to put his shoes on in the parking lot. He had a locker in the Masters locker room.
From the day that Sammy, won the Mid-Amateur until his name was announced on the first tee, he had thought of little else. Yes, Sammy tended to his daily tasks, but his mind was on the Masters.
When he and his caddie, Jon Hanner, heard the roar from the gallery as his ball trickled into the cup for an ace on the 33rd hole of the Mid-Am his name mind leaped forward to the Masters. With his match dormie, Hanner did what all good caddies do, he forced Sammy to focus on the moment. “You are not at the Masters yet. You have one more hole to play. Focus!” A perfectly struck 3-iron left Sammy with a simple two putt to win 3&2. “Now we can focus on the Masters!” Exclaimed Hanner.
Sammy Schmitz wants to go back to the Masters, but he understands that the next time he will probably need to buy a ticket. The kid who grew up near Fountain Valley Golf Course in Farmington was overwhelmed by the support of golf fans. He actually had a gallery. Family, friends and co-workers were all there to cheer him on. But the most amazing support came from a large and vocal group of fellow St John’s University, Johnnies, who shouted: “Go Johnnies” after every good shot.
On Monday of Masters week Sammy played a practice round with Rickey Fowler, a rising star on the Tour with a huge following and Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters Champion.
Sammy had lunch with fellow amateur, (who finished 4th) Bryson DeChambeau. Authors Note: The Psychic picked DeChambeau as the next “Game Changer”.
In the Par-3 tournament with his daughters Aubree and Allie as caddies. Sammy was paired with Romain Langasque and Victor Dubuisson, the French professional who made all those saves from the desert. Sammy was in the same field as Jack, Gary, Tom Watson, Spieth and Day. He was in the field where some caddies are better known than Presidents. Yes Sammy belonged.
With the exception of a nightmare for a few holes on Thursday, Sammy Schmitz was one of the players fighting to make the cut. After the 81 on Thursday in the first round, Rich Beem, who had a brief moment of fame when he out lasted Tiger Woods to win the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, gave Sammy some words of encouragement: “At the Masters one bad round does not ruin your tournament.” Beem is a member at Hazeltine, the club that will host the Ryder Cup. Beem was staying with a group of people from Minnesota including Joe Greupner, Schmitz’s swing coach.
Sammy and his family spent Saturday and Sunday as part of the gallery. But he knows now what it feels like inside the ropes. For a few brief days he was an active member of the fraternity where you must earn your prestigious membership.
Now Sammy Schmitz, regional director for an insurance company and weekend golfer must settle back into reality of just being a dad who plays golf. But a dad with memories that he was able to share with his family, memories of a few days in April of 2016 when he belonged among the best golfers in the world.