Last April when the world’s 2,535th-ranked amateur golfer gazed at the TV tuned to the Masters while sitting in a Farmington, Minnesota, saloon, he told his dad that someday he would take him to Augusta National to watch the tournament.
Of course, Sammy Schmitz expected to join his dad as a fan, never imagining that he would be teeing it up on Thursday as one of the 90 tournament players all vying for the coveted green jacket. Sammy’s dad Steve, his brother Simon, wife Natalie, and two daughters, Aubrey and Allie, will all be in Augusta to cheer for the unlikely Masters entrant.
Schmitz, a Division III Golf All-American, developed his athletic skills playing hockey and golf as a teen. He even hacked around for a couple of seasons on the Hooters Tour. Sammy decided that playing golf for money took the fun out of the game, so he dropped out and reinstated his amateur status.
Nevertheless, it was a special drive that he hit on the 33rd hole of a 36-hole finals at the U.S. Mid-Amateur that paved the way for his Thursday tee time.
On the 15th hole at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Florida, the 35-year-old Minnesota native hit a power fade on a 275-yard par four that landed on the green and poured into the cup for a hole-in-one, giving him a three up lead with three holes to play against his opponent Mark Dull from Lakeland, Florida. A par on the next hole secured his victory and his free pass to Augusta.
— USGA (@USGA) October 10, 2015
Remarkably, Dull eagled the hole carding a 2 on the par 4, but it wasn’t good enough. Meanwhile, Sammy’s brother Simon following the final round from his computer at home couldn’t figure out how Sammy had won the hole when Dull’s score was marked 2. He reckoned that it must have been an error on the scorecard. “I almost fell out of my chair,” Simon said. “I clicked out of it by accident, reopened it, and I was all over the place. It said a 1 on a par-4. I sat there for two minutes and couldn’t believe it.”
A plaque on the 15th tee box now describes the historic hole-in-one as ”only the second such feat on a par-four in 120 years of USGA competition.”
Simon thanks Sammy for helping him beat an alcohol addiction and he now enjoys five years of sobriety. “I caddied for him every tournament in 2011,” he said, “and it was the first year he got state player of the year. That was a big season for me and him. Sammy gave me that spark again, got me going in the right direction. … I think maybe him helping his brother made him feel like a better person and helped him play better.”
Sammy, thanks to a GoFundMe page that served as a source to fund his practice round trips and for this weekend’s expenses, goes off at a 2,500-1 shot to win, according to some Vegas bookmakers. But as ESPN points out, by playing alongside 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and 22-year-old Australian golfer Cameron Smith Thursday at Augusta National, Sammy has already beaten the odds.