Personal success isn’t what Jeff Schmid of Iowa City is chasing at this point in his career as a golf professional, yet he’s found a lot of it lately.
“I just love teaching golf,” Schmid said, “working with people to get better. I feel like that’s my calling, my true identity as a golf professional.”
But next week, the 50-year-old teaching pro at Coralville’s Brown Deer Golf Club will play in the PGA Championship on the Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. Yes, it’s that PGA Championship, one of golf’s four majors.
The following week, Schmid will compete in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y. He earned his way into both fields by finishing tied for seventh at last October’s PGA Senior Professional Championship (for teaching pros) and tied for eighth at last week’s PGA Professional Championship in Blufton, S.C. The top 20 finishers out of the over 300 entrants in the latter qualified for the PGA Championship with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and an old friend of his from Cedar Rapids named Zach Johnson.
Schmid was tied for 109th place after the first round of the latter event when he shot 75, but moved up in each subsequent round. His 67 topped everyone in the field in the final round and sent him to Bethpage Black.
“It wasn’t a miracle,” Schmid said. “I played pretty good golf. I really played solidly in the final round, like you hope to play every round.”
“I’ve never played in a major. I came close a few times. Better late than never.”
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Schmid is a Cedar Rapids native who moved to Minnesota as a high school junior, but came back to Iowa to play on the University of Iowa men’s golf team from 1987 to 1990.
He was a 4-year letterwinner and a team captain, and he was an All-Big Ten honoree in 1989. After graduating in 1990, he began 18 years as a touring golf pro.
“I played four years on the Asian Tour and eight years in South America,” he said. “I played in Canada, on the Hooters Tour, in every state Open.”
Schmid won the Iowa Open in 2000. Johnson won it in 2001 and 2002. When Johnson won the Greater Cedar Rapids Open in 2001, Schmid finished second.
“When Zach moved to Florida in 2002, we lived 10 minutes apart,” Schmid said. “I kind of joke that he exploded upwards and I trended down.”
But Schmid found his comfort zone in golf after leaving the tour life. His wife, Sasha Schmid, was head women’s tennis coach at Stetson University and then the University of Missouri, and Jeff taught at nearby golf courses as well as did volunteer teaching for those two schools’ golf teams.
Sasha was named women’s tennis coach at her Iowa alma mater in 2017, and Jeff was an assistant coach of the Hawkeyes’ men’s golf team for two years before relinquishing it to focus on his Brown Deer job and his family.
In a defiance of the odds, Schmid is the second Brown Deer pro to reach the PGA in two years. Head pro Sean McCarty qualified last year.
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“That’s kind of cool,” Schmid said. “I think it helps promote golf around here. I think people are kind of starving for local stories like that.”
It can’t hurt Schmid’s goal to launch a strong junior golf program in Iowa City, either.
But first, the brutally difficult Bethpage Black awaits.
“Zach Johnson texted me a couple days ago and said it’s a real bear,” Schmid said.
“He said it’s exactly the same as Twin Pines and Elmcrest. They all have 18 tee boxes and 18 greens.
“For me it will be trying to keep it in play. I’m 50. If it’s in the rough, I don’t have the power those guys do.”
Schmid will drive 15 hours over two days to get from Iowa City to Long Island. It isn’t the golf-superstar’s life, but it’s bucket list all the way. And he’ll have a prestigious Seniors tourney (“a mini-major,” he called it) to play in Rochester as he heads back westward.
“Counting last week,” Schmid said, “it’s three really cool weeks within a month.”
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