Issue No. 1 by sonomacountygolf.com writer Bill Nichols
Yes, we know Sonoma County is blessed with many outstanding golf courses, but have you ever wondered how many of those courses feature a local professional?
Let’s start with Windsor and its club pro Jason Schmuhl.
Jason went to Analy High School and Santa Rosa Junior College. Jason, 41, is married (Tracy) and has three kids, daughters Kristina (20), Averie (9) and son Riley (11).
After JC, Jason attended the University of San Francisco on a golf scholarship. His golf eligibility ran out before he finished at USF so he transferred to Sonoma State University, where he graduated.
Jason didn’t play on any of the pro circuits because of all the travel required, and the start of his family.
“I just played college golf, and then I became an assistant pro at Santa Rosa Country Club while I was finishing up school,” he said. “I played some local Northern California PGA events, like Club Pro stuff, and through that I qualified for about 10 tour events.”
Jason played in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits Golf Club, but missed the cut. Schmuhl also passed on attempting Q School to try and earn his PGA Tour card.
“No I didn’t try and get my PGA card because I was 21 and we just had our first kid,” he said. “Plus, qualifying school was expensive, and I never really wanted to travel around that much.”
Schmuhl was known for his prodigious driving ability and reportedly drove the No. 8 hole at Windsor, some 368 yards from the back tees that also had a lake fronting the small green.
“Yeah, I did it,” Jason said. “It was down wind, but I hit the green and the ball stuck. Then I actually made the putt for an eagle.”
Schmuhl said hitting the ball long didn’t hurt.
“I definitely hit it long back then, but I’ve toned it down a little,” he added. “Now I just try and hit it straight, because while I was hitting it long I was also hitting it crooked. Just trying to hit it in play has really helped my game. You know, to become more consistent.”
Schmuhl also acknowledged the biggest difference in his game and the Tour players is accuracy.
“I just wasn’t hitting it straight enough,” he said.
Schmuhl, who began playing golf at the age of eight, believes the best way to encourage kids to play now is to emphasize making it fun.
“It always helps if you have a parent that played, but I think a lot of parents try to give too much instruction to kids at too early an age,” he said. “Then they don’t have fun. You know, if the kid goes out and has a good time, and just learns to play that way, they’ll be into it more than if they have to go, and it’s like a job. Just take them out with you, let them fool around and have fun. That’s probably the best way to do it.”
His daughter Kristina did play golf in high school.
“She was kind of a funny one,” Schmuhl recalled. “She never really wanted to play. She just wasn’t in to it. Then about a month before her freshman year in high school, she goes ‘hey dad, I want to try out for the golf team’. All I could say was, oh really, OK. I had always made sure I never offered to help her unless she asked me to. She actually ended up being the Press Democrat All Empire Player of the Year, both her junior and senior years. She got pretty good, but I think for her it was more a social thing.”
Jason takes both Riley and Averie out every once in a while to play nine holes.
“I need to take Riley out a little bit more so then he can come out and play some by himself, “ Jason said. “Averie plays a few holes, but she’s more interested in driving the cart.”
One of the hottest topics in golf lately has been the rule change for using belly putters. Here is Schmuhls thoughts on the subject.
“My feeling is, if you have a guy that has gotten where he is by using the belly putter you shouldn’t change the rule,” he said. “I don’t really like that. First of all, there’s not like 90 percent of the players using them. There’s just a few using it with some success. You know it’s like Stadler (Kevin), who uses a long putter, responded when asked what he was going to do when the rule changes, ‘I may retire’. You know that’s not fair. I mean the guy’s grown up putting with a certain technique, and then you change the rules. I don’t agree with that.”
Schmuhl said there really isn’t much he would change about the game of golf.
“I’m a big pace of play guy,” Jason said. “I always like when people play ready golf and don’t take six hours to play 18 holes. I think the USGA and R&A do a good job as far as staying on top of the rules of the game. There’s always a couple of rules you might think are questionable, like when you were on the putting green and you grounded your club and the ball moved. Even if you had nothing to do with it moving you were penalized. But they changed that one. I didn’t like that rule. But overall I think it’s pretty fair.”
Here’s what Schmuhl had to say about equipment changes.
“Everyone is in the same boat when it comes to equipment,” he said. “I mean if manufactures, you know, if they can’t try and make anything better, they won’t be able to sell anything. Anyway, equipment changes are going to help the bad player a lot more than the good players. The Tour players can still go out and play with some old persimmon woods, and whatever ball you hand them, and still shoot a really good score. The newer equipment will help the 20 handicapper more than the Tour players.
Schmuhl grew up rooting for Fred Couples, and he also likes Phil Mickelson.
“I’ve met Mickelson a few times and he’s been a good guy, so I’m a Mickelson fan.”
Asked if there was a high school or local college standout to keep an eye on, Schmuhl singled out Montgomery High’s Nick Rodgers. He also pointed out that in his opinion girls golf around here hasn’t generally been that good for a while.
“I’d love it if girls’ golf did pick up a bit and there was more interest,” he said. “I’m not sure why there isn’t.”
Other “LOCAL GOODS” will include Bennett Valley’s Bob Borowitz, and Foxtail’s Jessica Reese-Quayle. If you know of other local club pros please drop me an email at email@example.com