PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Sam Ohno thought his college golf career had ended unceremoniously when the Ivy League canceled all sports activities for the spring educational season.
University of North Florida males’s golf coach Scott Schroeder had a greater concept.
Ohno, a 22-year-old Dartmouth senior, competed in the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational at Sawgrass Country Club, March 28-29, as an unattached particular person, ending T-34, on the membership the place he and his household are members.
“It was more than I could ever imagine,” Ohno stated. “It was the icing on the cake for me.”
Sam Ohno competes in the 2021 John Hayt Collegiate Invitational at Sawgrass Country Club. (Photo: The Ohno household)
Like many college athletes, Ohno in all probability didn’t admire how a lot being a member of Dartmouth’s golf workforce meant to him till it was taken away. He performed 2 ½ years for The Big Green, having fun with the workforce camaraderie and competing at a few of the greatest programs in the Northeast earlier than the spring 2020 season was reduce brief due to COVID-19.
Then in July, the men’s golf team was one of five teams eliminated by the college. Although Dartmouth reinstated the program in January, the Ivy League is the one convention in the nation that isn’t competing in athletics. It was a merciless ending to Ohno’s college golf career, however one that he accepted amidst the bigger considerations of a world pandemic.
“I learned something from him just how he dealt with adversity,” stated Ohno’s father Rob, an government with the PGA Tour and AJGA board member. “I thought he might throw in the towel with golf, but he’s used the time to get better.”
Schroeder knew Ohno from his junior golf days and, prior to Dartmouth eliminating the golf program, Schroeder had wished to invite the workforce to play in the event in order that Ohno may compete at his dwelling membership as a senior. Schroeder questioned if there was one other means that Ohno may nonetheless compete in the Hayt, an annual spring college event hosted by UNF.
“I tried to temper his enthusiasm because who knew if it would work out,” Rob Ohno stated.
Schroeder filed the mandatory paperwork and Ohno had to adhere to the identical COVID-19 protocols as any of the golfers in the sector and be examined 72 hours in advance of the competitors. Schroeder additionally had to get log out from all the opposite coaches and conferences competing in the event, any of which may have killed the thought, however in an unprecedented gesture of sportsmanship and goodwill, the groups taking part in this yr’s occasion agreed to permit Ohno to compete in the person competitors.
“No one came back with any concerns,” Schroeder stated. “Anytime you can do something for a kid that’s been thrown some curveballs, why wouldn’t we as adults?”
It’s unclear if a bunch workforce has ever invited a person golfer that wasn’t a part of an invited workforce. Unattached athletes aren’t unusual in particular person sports activities resembling cross nation and observe. To distinguish himself as an unattached participant, Ohno had to purchase a brand new golf bag to substitute his Dartmouth one and couldn’t put on a workforce uniform.
“I just dressed like I would every other day to play,” he stated.
Other than that, he was simply one other college child making an attempt to make birdies in entrance of a vocal following. Sawgrass Country Club’s Director of Golf Stefan Brunt inspired the membership membership to come root Ohno on and he had the most important gallery, together with regulars in his Saturday morning group.
Despite experiencing some rust after a protracted college event layoff, Ohno acquitted himself fairly effectively, enhancing his rating by a shot every spherical (75-74-73-222), and ending second amongst the person individuals. Next up for Ohno: Mackenzie Tour Q-School subsequent week at Callaway Gardens in Georgia. But after shedding out on enjoying his last three semesters of college golf, Ohno will always remember how Coach Schroeder went out of his means to permit him to exit on a excessive notice.
“How many people get to play at their home club in a tournament let alone your final event,” stated Ohno. “How amazing is that?”