In good company: SJU alumnus to play in Masters in front of friends

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March 16, 2016

By Mike Killeen

Sammy Schmitz

Sammy Schmitz '03

Photograph courtesy of Chris Keane, USGA

You can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps.

When Saint John's University graduate Sammy Schmitz '03 tees off in the 2016 Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 7, there'll be a large group of Johnnies cheering him on behind the ropes.

His former SJU roommate and teammate, Ben Goodman '03, will be there. So will Jim Lehman Jr. '80, older brother to PGA golfer Tom Lehman and son of legendary SJU football player Jim Lehman '56. Heck, former Johnnie golfer Nathan Proshek '04 is bringing his dad, Scott, who just happens to be the head golf coach at the University of St. Thomas.

"We've got some Johnnies who will be pulling for him every doggone step of the way and cheer for him no matter what," said SJU golf coach Bob Alpers '82, who will also be at Augusta National Golf Club.

For Alpers, there's a simple reason why Schmitz will have a strong cheering section when he plays.

"You've got a top-notch person in Sammy," Alpers said. "I think that's why we're so proud of him. It's not just because of his play, it's because of the type of person Sam is. That's why we're so proud of him.

"He's going to get a chance to go out and do something and doggone it, we're going to cheer for him like crazy, because he's such of a good guy," Alpers said.

He's such a good guy that Alpers cried tears of happiness when he heard that Schmitz qualified for the Masters by winning the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur Oct. 8 in Vero Beach, Florida. Even though Schmitz was the first (and still only) four-time golf All-American at SJU, Alpers believes he has raised his game since graduating.

"Sam has done so well after graduation," Alpers said. "He was a great player here, but he has taken it to different level out there. He's a tough-minded competitor, but I never met anybody who didn't really enjoy playing with Sam. He's a lot of fun."

Alpers knows he can't predict how Schmitz will do. One of Alpers' favorite sayings is you can't control how the rest of the field plays.

"Lord knows, on the first tee that first day, I'll dare say that will be about as nerve-wracking as a situation as a guy can get," Alpers said. "He'll handle it. He'll handle it like he always does, with a smirk and a wise-acre comment.

"We were talking about how exciting it is to be there. It's an opportunity that every kid has ever dreamed of, to play in the Masters," Alpers said. "He wants to embrace every moment of his experience when he's out there. He just wants to go out there and just play as good as he can."