ST. MARYS — Like most golfers, St. Marys’ Jill Schmitmeyer has a love-hate relationship with the sport and right now she is loving the game she grew up playing.
The senior standout will be competing in the Division II state tournament for the third straight time this weekend in Columbus after finishing third at the Division II district tournament and posting a 76 last week. Since missing state her freshman year by one stroke, Schmitmeyer has qualified for state since her sophomore year and has posted lower scores each time she has played. In her sophomore year she finished 19th and last year she finished fifth.
“I think it is just as exciting as making it the first time,” Schmitmeyer said. “I am very excited to go back with a little experience on the course and seeing how well I can do because I am happy where my game is at and feel like I have improved a lot from last year.”
Jill added that this season she is hitting more greens and her putting has also improved. She attributes her improvement to practicing during the off season and playing in the Lima Junior Golf Association (LJGA) during the summer.
In those LJGA summer tournaments, she was competing against the Mulcahy sisters from Lima Central Catholic, who will also be a state with the Thunderbird team. She said it helped immensely competing at the LJGA events because she had the opportunity to play courses that she would see during the regular season and it helped to be pushed by other golfers of her caliber.
“I just feel I have grown physically and mentally as a person and gaining more experience. I think as I get older you get a little better and I feel I have really grown a lot this past year,” Jill Schmitmeyer said.
Steve Schmitmeyer, her father and coach, said he has witnessed her progress and added his daughter has always been self-motivated and a hard worker.
Jill Schmitmeyer also had a great role model in her older brother, Michael, who qualified for state in 2007 when he played for St. Marys and has had some success after high school.
“I think being a family thing really helps out,” Steve Schmitmeyer said. “Michael is 10 years older than she so she watched him play and have a lot of success.”
Steve Schmitmeyer said the key to his daughter’s tremendous accomplishments is all the extra time she has put in to becoming a state qualifier.
“She has just put in a lot of hard work,” said Steve Schmitmeyer who added that he is amazed about what she has done on and off the golf course. “She is also involved in marching band, National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “She is managing it well and she has a great GPA so that is impressive.”
Jill Schmitmeyer, who also plays on the varsity basketball team, began playing golf at an early age with her family and by age 11 she was competing in LJGA events.
Barely missing state as a freshman has served as a motivator for her to make every stroke count.
During the season, Jill Schmitmeyer competes on the boys; team and she said this helps because she is playing from longer distances and added that she gains more confidence because she sees she can compete on their level.
In the WBL meet, Jill Schmitmeyer finished fourth overall and was the league’s runner-up golfer of the year.
“It has really given me more confidence and given me more drive to compete against them and try to beat them and that carries over in the postseason,” Jill Schmitmeyer said.
At sectionals, she was the medalist with a 75 and then followed it up at districts with a third place 76.
With state at hand, Jill Schmitmeyer expects to compete for the state title this year. Being that it is her third trip to state, Schmitmeyer said she sees this as a definite advantage.
“I think my scores are right there but there is definitely a lot of good girls there,” Jill Schmitmeyer said. “I am just going to, play my best and see what happens. I know how to deal with the bigger stage and also the golf course. It is not an easy golf course. But I feel ready for it.”
The girls will be playing on the Grey Course at The Ohio State University.
Schmitmeyer understands how fortunate she is to make it to state three times. Knowing most golfers never get the opportunity to even get to this level keeps her grounded and from becoming overconfident.
Golf has also taught her life lessons.
“It teaches you a lot of values like honesty and integrity,” Jill Schmitmeyer said. “It is also great because you meet a lot of people.”
Lima Central Catholic appears to be peaking at the right time and head coach Dan Reinicke says it could results in a state title.
The Thunderbirds punched their ticket to state after capturing the Division II Sycamore Springs district title after shooting a season low 338.
“That was our best score and we picked a good time to do it,” Reinicke said. “We are pointing in the right direction at the right time.”
“We thought we had a chance to make it to state,” Reinicke said. “I don’t know if I thought we would be district champs when we started this journey two months ago but as the season went on we kept getting better and better and you could see it happening.”
LCC opened the postseason with a sectional title after shooting a 342 at the Celina Lynx golf course.
The addition of the Mulcahy twins, freshmen Erin and Mary Kelly, who joined their sister Meghan, was a definite shot in the arm to the LCC team. The sisters, who cut their teeth playing in the Lima Junior Golf Association during the summer, brought with them high expectations and low scores.
“They were good golfers to begin with and I think they elevated the play of some of the other players,” Reineke said. “I know some of the other girls dropped as many as five strokes from their average from last year and I think the competition within the team, even though it was friendly, kept them going.”
Hannah Garver and Callie Koenig have been in the fourth and fifth spot for the Thunderbirds throughout the season.
“They both have become pretty consistent in their play,” Reineke said. “We pretty much know what we are going to get and we know how they are going to play so it is a matter of executing. They have been solid all year long.”
These two were instrumental in LCC capturing the district title after Koenig, the only senior on the team, came in with a 94 that helped tie Shelby. When it came to break the tie, Hannah Garver, recorded a 96 that was four strokes better than Shelby’s golfer to give the Thunderbirds the win.
Reineke said it is hard to compare other district’s scores due to the differences and challenges of other courses but the LCC head coach adds that there was only one other team from another district that posted a lower score than the Thunderbirds.
“Two of the three teams at district last year finished one and three at state so we have been playing some of the better teams,” Reineke said. “We know how they play and so I think we can compete with anybody.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1