HARTINGTON — The rise up the golf food chain has been quite the journey for Cedar Catholic alum Matthew Schaefer.
Schaefer began looking for a home at the NCAA four-year school level while at Northeast Nebraska Community College in Norfolk.
Thankfully, he and the South Dakota State coaching staff had already been talking and that made things easier for Schaefer.
His transition has gone well.
“At first I would say, it was a big change,” he said. “There are a lot more players that are really good. In JUCO you’d go to a tournament and there would be five to 10 guys that could win it realistically. Now, you go to some of these bigger tournaments - like for example Wyoming or Oregon - and there are 20-30 guys that can win the tournament. There is just a lot more depth to it and that’s the part I noticed the most.”
The Jackrabbits finished 15th in Wyoming, fifth at their own invitational - albeit held in Nevada - and most recently, scored 12th in Eugene, Oregon.
In the events, the former Trojan has done his fair share of heavy lifting to keep the team trending upward.
At Wyoming, he shot a plus-10.
“I wasn’t too disappointed, but not on top of the world, either,” Schaefer said. “I didn’t play my best, but not my worst. Just putting myself out there and giving myself an opportunity to do well. There were times where I showed really positive things that showed in the future I could do better. It was a good experience to see all the players there so I now know what it really takes to finish higher and even win.”
In Nevada, he competed as an individual after not qualifying for the team entry, and after a rough go with that aspect of tournament play, Schaefer represented himself strongly by finishing with a 207 (9-under) which was actually the best score for the Jackrabbits.
“It’s a combination of our team having some really good players ... I didn’t play well in the qualifier and didn’t end up making the top five for the team,” he said. “Since we hosted it, the whole team got to play - even those not in the top five. It kind of goes to show how deep this game is and anyone can play well and any given time.”
He had some things to work out after the disappointing qualifying match.
“I fixed my swing - I was a little bit off with my alignment - and I changed that the day before the tournament,” he said. “I was hitting the ball really well and had a lot of confidence. It was probably the best I was hitting the ball in a very long time.”
Eugene was host to a tough and hilly course which hurt everyone’s numbers and so even if his score of 231 (18-over) may seem like a dip from the previous outing, don’t be mistaken.
“All the other scores were well over par,” Schaefer said of the Eugene Country Club. “That course was really tough. Honestly, it was one of the tougher courses I had played in my life, but it was a really good experience. The course, course conditions and the weather all factored in making it a little harder.”
He has managed his way through the COVID-19 pandemic as best as can be expected.
“I try to do what I can with what I have,” he said. “School, it’s partially online and partially in class, so I just try to do the best I can. With golf, playing and practicing as much as I can whenever that’s available.”
His next meet will take place on April 5-6 in Columbia, Missouri at the Tiger Invitational.
“Everything feels pretty good as far as my golf game: I am swinging the club the best that I have ever,” Schaefer said. “I can see glimpses, so I know it’s there and now it’s a matter of putting it all together and being consistent. I am just taking it one week and tournament at a time.”
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