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Elizabeth Schultz needed just four years of golf instruction before qualifying for the U.S. Open   By ERIK STORDAHL | SportStars   When Elizabeth...

Elizabeth Schultz needed just four years of golf instruction before qualifying for the U.S. Open

  By ERIK STORDAHL | SportStars

  When Elizabeth Schultz entered the US Women’s Open qualifier in June, she knew the odds were stacked against her. 

  In the 68-player field, only three would make it to the prestigious tournament in New York. Of the participants, most were collegiate standouts hailing from powerhouses like Cal and UCLA. And this was a 36-hole tournament – something Schultz had never competed in before. Not to mention she had never even played this course – Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City – which features a design geared to give even the most experienced golfers headaches.

  Schultz approached the tournament with an open mind.

  “At first I was little bit nervous,” said Schultz, who is entering her senior year at Acalanes-Lafayette, “But then I was like,  yeah exactly, I don’t really have anything to lose ‘cause I didn’t think I was gonna qualify. I was just going there for the experience of playing in the qualifier.”

  Her mentality shifted after the first day when she shot a 2-over 74, tied for seventh. Would the momentum carry over into the second day?

  “It was interesting because I did better, and then most people actually did worse over their second 18 (holes).”

  Schultz shot 1-over par on the second day, finishing at 3-over 147 for the tournament. But she had to patiently wait in the clubhouse as others filed in with their scores. 

  Her 147 held up and she qualified along with Livermore’s Casie Cathrea, who shot a 140, and Emily Childs of Alameda who shot a 143.

  To think Schultz has been playing golf for only four years makes this accomplishment that much more impressive.

  One fateful day in 2009, Schultz happened to be watching The Master’s on TV with family friend Dan Stanich. Intrigued by what she saw, Schultz, at this point an avid competitive swimmer, asked Stanich if he brought his clubs.

  Schultz then proceeded to hit cotton balls wrapped in duct tape in her backyard for hours. She was immediately hooked. Prior to this, her experience consisted of Wii Golf.

  “She stood out there for two and a half hours hitting cotton balls,” Stanich said. “I’m like either there’s something wrong with her or she just likes golf.”

  As she entered high school, Schultz had to make the difficult decision of choosing swimming or golf since there was no way she could devote enough time to excel in both. She chose the latter and Stanich has been with her every step of the way, teaching her the mechanics and nuances of the game. 

* * *

  Over the years, Schultz has heeded Stanich’s tutelage and improved her game. She drives the ball roughly 270 yards on average and her strength is chipping and putting — “anything 90 feet and in,” says Schultz. 

  That skill set resulted in Schultz placing third at last year’s NCS Tournament of Champions and a 3-over 75 at the CIF NorCal Championships, missing the state tournament by four strokes.

  She is insatiable. Her summer routine starts with four to five hours at Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek, working on every facet of the game. Then it’s off to the gym where she engages in workouts specific for golf. At home, she studies up on the game yearning to discover more nuances. Needless to say, there’s little time for a social life.

  There have even been 10-to-12 hour days where Schultz simply doesn’t want to leave the course and Stanich will start driving away until Schultz relents. It’s that obsessive mindset that has catapulted her game to where it is now.

  “She’s kind of rare for her age, that you have to literally pull her off of the golf course,” Stanich said. “She just loves to practice and that’s why she’s successful. It’s hard to get a teenage boy or girl to work that hard at a sport.” 

* * *

  Schultz arrived at Southampton, N.Y. several days before the Open where she soaked in the entire experience. 

  The first of three practice rounds started on June 24, which meant Schultz got to rub elbows with the game’s elite. She was grouped with players like tour pro Ryan O’Toole and Birdie Kim — winner of the 2005 U.S. Open. Tour pros were stunned when they found out Schultz was a mere 16 years old and gave her advice on her young career.

  She received the royal treatment in the locker room with her name embroidered on her locker that was filled with several boxes of balls along with food and beverages. Her locker was next to Lizette Salas. 

  “In my locker room I think was like Suzann Pettersen as well and Stacy Lewis,” Schultz said. “It was really cool.”

  Schultz’s goal was simple: make the cut. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen despite a promising 6-over 78 on the first day. She was devastated, but headed home determined to get better.

  Since then, Schultz has won two junior tournaments with about 10 more to go until the fall golf season starts. This year she has her sights set on winning state.

  Colleges have reached out to her and she’s narrowed the list to four: Cal, San Jose State, USF and Texas. Each has its own pros and cons, so Schultz will continue to whittle down the selection. 

  The end goal? Turning pro.

  “There’s really nothing stopping her,” Stanich said.

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