On a recent episode of the GOLF.com podcast, we sat down with U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz, 35, to discuss his journey to Augusta National.
How is your game right now?
It feels good. I played in the International Fourball a few weeks ago, and my partner and I won it down in West Palm Beach, Fla. We won it by three shots. I’ve been working pretty hard at the Concession Club down in Bradenton…with the job, I won’t be able to practice too much during the week, but traveling to Florida on the weekends has helped out quite a bit.
You play a ton of golf to make it through the U.S. Mid-Am. Do you have to be in great shape to play the number of holes you play to win that championship?
I think the endurance is a huge part of it. Am I in great shape? Probably not, but I’m in good enough shape. It’s just as much of a mental grind as it is a physical grind.
When you’re leading on the back nine of the final match, is the invitation to the Masters that victory would bring already on your mind?
Oh, I tried not to think about it, but it crept in. I did such a good job of not letting it get to my head, but woke up at 2 a.m. the night of the championship match. I started thinking about it. You want it so bad. You’ve got just two guys; it’s a 50-50 shot. You just want it so bad you can’t help thinking about something when it’s as big as the Masters.
Eventually, you reach the 290-yard, par-4 15th hole and ace it. Take us back to that moment.
I thought, at best, my opponent was going to make par. I had a good feeling with driver in my hand during that hole. I had hit the green a couple times earlier that week. I pured it, it landed on the green and it started to roll up this huge slope. I remember my caddie and I were hoping it wouldn’t go up the slope and we’d have a guaranteed birdie. I took off my glove and started walking. I didn’t think it had a chance of going in. I just thought it was going to be really good. All of a sudden, we could hear people get louder and louder. They started screaming, and it was one of those cheers where you know it went in.
Was there a bit of a media storm following your win?
Oh, yeah. Tons. There were a lot of interviews; a lot of coverage; a lot of people reaching out. It was something new for me. It takes up a lot of your time, but it’s a good story and people want to hear about it.
How do you envision handling Augusta National?
I’ve talked to several people who have played in the tournament. I just met with a guy who won the U.S. Amateur and is a member down there. It’s hard to understand what you’re up against because the greens are extremely undulated, they’re super fast and there’s a lot of pressure. I played [a practice round in December at] the course, so I kind of know what it’s like, but not really. I’m going to have a lot of fun and just see what happens.
What stood out in your first experience at the course?
TV just doesn’t do it justice. The whole course is built on a huge hill. You just don’t get that picture by watching it on TV. You don’t understand the undulation of the greens and just how scary some shots can be on the course.