This article was originally posted in 2017.
Sarah Schmelzel in her second season on the Symetra Tour posted seven top 10 results in 21 starts to finish 13th in the Volvik Race for the Card standings and earn a spot in the inaugural LPGA Q-Series. She currently shares the lead in the 6th round with Klara Silkova.
March 16, 2001. It’s an important date in women’s golf history. One of those days where some might remember where they were. Symetra Tour Sarah Schmelzel certainly does.
She was in the fourth grade and it was Friday of the Standard Register Ping at her home course of Moon Valley in Phoenix. Schmelzel’s dad, Dennis, got word through a friend that something special was happening. So, he pulled his daughter out of school and raced over to Moon Valley to watch Sorenstam.
Something very special happened – she shot a 59. Young Sarah Schmelzel was in attendance.
“When I saw her and that competitiveness and how many people were around and how invested the crowd got it made me completely enamored,” explained Schmelzel. “From then on, I watched her on TV and anytime she was at Moon Valley, I would follow her group. I fell in love with golf then and I wanted to play the LPGA since then.”
The following year, Schmelzel was sitting right next to the ropes at Moon Valley and Sorenstam tossed her a ball. She got a signature and still has it in her house to this day.
Schmelzel is now a rookie on the Symetra Tour and making her fourth career start this week at the Tullymore Classic.
The story starts with Dennis and Amy Schmelzel, who didn’t have kids right away after getting married. Dennis is a golf historian of sorts and the couple travelled and went to U.S. Open’s and PGA Championship's. In fact, they were greenside for Tom Watson’s iconic chip in at the 1982 U.S. Open.
“My dad studied the game and pretty much bought every book and tried to learn from the legends,” explained Schmelzel. "He studied Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and all the oldies. He taught me and my brother from a very young age so up until high school I didn’t have a lesson from anyone but my dad.”
She took to the sport slowly. Schmelzel remembers going to Moon Valley every Saturday with her dad and sitting by the bunker while he would practice bunker shots. She would build sand castles.
Her first love was actually gymnastics and she was very competitive. She would train in the gym 30-35 hours a week growing up. During her last year of competition, in middle school, she won the Arizona state championship in bars. Her parents were surprised when she gave up gymnastics to focus on golf in the eighth grade.
Schmelzel took quickly to golf and became a standout in high school at Xavier Prep – a school that also produced Cheyenne Woods, Amanda Blumenherst and many others. She took medalist honors at the 2011 Arizona State High School Championships.
Schmelzel wanted to spread her wings a bit so she decided to go to South Carolina to play college golf. Turned out to be a good decision as she was an Honorable Mention All-American as a senior in 2015-16 and ranks fourth all-time in school history in scoring average.
“Being far from home and being thrown into a different type of atmosphere was good for me, I played on a team with a lot of people from out of the country,” said Schmelzel. “It really taught me how to adapt, which is really important when you turn pro and you’re traveling all over and meeting new people.”
After a so-so showing by her standards at Q-School in 2016, she has low status, but with her two made cuts thus far and a good performance this week, she could play her way into the rest of the season. The second reshuffle is after the Donald Ross Centennial Classic at French Lick Resort, which is next week.
The little girl that witnessed history in 2001, is now trying to make her own.