By Craig Flagg
With the month of July winding down, Sophia Schubert came to a crossroads last week. Actually, it was more like a fork in the road, a two-pronged fork, if you will.
Fully invested in promoting the 2018 U.S. Women’s Am coming to The Golf Club of Tennessee, Schubert, while mentally preparing to defend her 2017 title, made the media rounds just a month or so ago, donning the role of defending champion.
But then she came upon that fork. Oddly enough, it sits there all because she won last year’s U.S. Women’s Am and enjoyed the perks that come with victory.
“Winning the Am, it gives you exemptions into all the majors but one,” Schubert said on Saturday. “But not only that, it opened up so many other doors. I’ve been able to get a sponsor’s exemption now into another LPGA event.”
That event is the Indy Women in Tech Championship, set for Aug. 16-19 at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in Indianapolis. With the U.S. Women’s Am slated for Aug. 6-12, Schubert tossed and turned a few nights before deciding on her next course of action.
Schubert, who is from Oak Ridge, has decided to come to this year’s U.S. Women’s Am — and watch! She’ll cheer on some of her friends who are playing before leaving early to prepare for her professional debut and a shot at a piece of the Women in Tech’s $2 million purse.
“It’s been a tough decision,” Schubert said. “I talked with the USGA, I talked with my teammates, my coaches, my agent. I have Indianapolis — that’s my sponsor’s exemption — and then I have Q School after that — so they all think that it’s best for me if I turn professional right before.
“I wanted to play, I wanted to defend my title in Tennessee. But after winning the Am, that really helped propel me to get to where I want to be, and that’s a professional golfer.”
So, while the USGA would love to have the defending champ back to help ratchet up the drama, maybe the organization ended up doing its job too well.
“The USGA has just done an incredible job of helping their champions have so many opportunities that they would never have had before,” Schubert said. “It’s been wonderful. They’ve worked really hard to get me all these opportunities.”
Since winning the U.S. Womens
Am, Schubert got to play in the 2017 Evian Championship at beautiful Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France, in September as well as the 2018 ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in March.
Then came a June invitation to Long Island, New York, and to 127-year-old Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, recognized as the oldest golf club in the United States.
“They had a celebration of champions there of all their USGA champions this past year and we went up there and we played four holes on Shinnecock two days before the (U.S. Open) championship started,” Schubert said. “I got to be out there hitting golf balls on the range with the top professional male golfers. And that will probably never happen again.”
Mixed in between those events were the 2018 Big 12 Championship. Her eighth-place finish helped Texas win the title for the second year in a row. What’s more, she set the Texas single-stroke average record with a 71.76 mark, breaking her own record of 72.49. She capped her collegiate run with a 21st-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championship.
And while Schubert, now 22, has seen many female golfers younger than herself already make their way into the pro ranks, she says she feels this is the right time for her.
She figures that the combination of her maturity, her physical strength and her experience will play to her advantage as she takes on young golfers, many from outside the United States, who have been able to come up through the pipeline with the help of strong national support.
So, after the Indy event, she’ll head for Q School in Palm Springs, Calif., with the goal of making it through all three stages to earn her LPGA card. From a field of about 300 women, only 20 or so will nab the prestigious passes.
If Schubert comes up short, she’ll play on the Symetra Tour — previously known as the LPGA Futures Tour — try to get as many sponsors as possible and try to place in the top 10 money winners at season’s end, thus earning LPGA playing status.
“I believe that this is God’s plan for me,” Schubert said, “so we’ll see how it works out.”