Catching up with Windsor golf pro Jason Schmuhl
By HOWARD SENZELL / Towns Sports Correspondent
Jason Schmuhl isn’t in the same league as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McElroy. But when it comes to golf in Sonoma County, he’s the king.
Schmuhl, who lives in Windsor, plays Northern California Golf Association tournaments and has competed in such major events as the AT&T at Pebble Beach, consistently shooting under par. He’s probably the only golfer in the area who can make that claim.
“I think most people would agree, Jason Schmuhl is the best golfer around here,” said Derek Felciano a teaching pro at Bennett Valley Golf Course.
For the past 14 years, Schmuhl been the head golf professional at Windsor Golf Club. We asked the 40-year-old about his game and the game’s future.
Who are the most famous golfers you’ve played with?
At the PGA Tournament in 2010, I played a practice round with Retief Goosen and Chad Campbell. They’re two of the top money-earners on tour, and Goosen has won majors.
What’s the difference between the golfers making big bucks and club professionals?
The guys on tour make fewer mistakes. Rarely do one of those players make a poor shot. Also, their short game is better.
Working at a golf course, you must play a lot.
In the past couple months, I’ve only played a handful of times. As head pro, I’m responsible for the day-to-day operation of the club. The business end takes a lot of my time, and I also teach.
When do you get a chance to play?
Mondays are generally the slowest day of the week for golf courses. In fact, a lot of country clubs close that day. So, a lot of pros take that day off, and from March through November, we travel to NCGA (Northern California Golf Association) tourneys. That’s how I keep my game sharp.
Who introduced you to the game?
My father, William, played and so did my brother, Kevin. I liked it from the first time I picked up a club.
How long did it take for you to realize golf was your sport?
After playing a few months, I was driving the ball a long way. That’s when I realized. I played for Analy High and the JC and got a scholarship to the University of San Francisco.
How far are you driving the ball off the tee these days?
I’m hitting it a little over 300 yards.
When people ask why should they take up golf, how do you respond?
It’s the most challenging sport there is. There’s no such thing as a perfect round of golf. You can always improve and lower your score. Another thing I like is that it’s you against the golf course. It’s one of the few sports where you can play into your 70s and 80s. Finally, it’s a game played outdoors in beautiful settings.
How has business been at Windsor Golf Club?
We’re down about 15 per cent from the late 1990s when golf was in the public eye because Tiger Woods was winning all the big tournaments. With the economy the way it is, many people don’t have the money to play. Also, a round of golf takes around four hours, and a lot of people don’t have that block of free time in their schedule.
For years, the knock on golf was that it was a sport for the rich. Still true?
Not anymore. For instance, nonresidents can play Windsor for $37 during the week, and Windsor residents pay only $33. Our senior and twilight rates are even lower. Also, the price for most equipment has come down in recent years.
What is your course doing to get young people interested in playing golf?
We have junior clinics and camps throughout the year, and we make our course available to the Windsor High golf teams. The NCGA also offers free membership to youths, and that allows them to play a round for $5. We want to make it affordable for young people to experience golf.
Your daughter, Kristina, graduated from Maria Carrillo High last year and was selected the All-Empire Player of the Year. Did you encourage her to take up golf?
No, I didn’t say, “You’re going to take lessons and play.” When she expressed interest in the game, I took her out to play. It’s the same with my other kids, Avery (8) and Riley (10). You don’t want to force children. They have to want to try it.
Do you have plans to play any more tour golf?
Possibly. The past few years my stroke average has been going down. If I can keep improving, I eventually might try to qualify for the Senior Tour. I have to wait until I’m 50 for that.