Mikaela Schulz of West Bloomfield, Michigan, used to think she was a pretty good golfer, but she wanted more and practiced, and then practiced some more still searching.
Then college golf at the University of Michigan came along.
“College golf has helped me mature in my golf game,” said the winner of the recent GAM Women’s Championship at Klinger Lake Country Club in Sturgis.
“I’ve identified how to practice, really redefined my practice and that helped me improve a lot this last year. I worked on what I needed to work on. Growing up, I put in the hours, but I didn’t necessarily work on what I needed to work on. I practiced what I wanted to practice.”
Schulz said she approached the GAM Women’s Championship in a completely different way than her usual approach to competitions, even the Michigan Women’s Amateur where she was runner-up to Kimberly Dinh of Midland earlier in the summer.
“It was interesting, I didn’t get as much thrill from winning as I usually do and that was because of my mindset that week I think,” she said. “I decided not to play anyone else, but to play myself and just play the best I can. I didn’t want to feel like I had to go out and beat someone or the other golfers in the field. I just played.”
She held on for a wire-to-wire win shooting a final-round 74 to go with a first-round 69 for a winning total of 1-under 143, just one shot ahead of Northern Illinois University golfer Jasmine Ly of Madison Heights, who rallied with a 70.
“I didn’t feel as excited as usual, but there was more satisfaction,” Schulz said. “I knew I played the best golf I could in the tournament and it was good enough. It was cool and winning a super special GAM event is good momentum going into my college season. It was a good end to the summer.”
Jan Dowling, the golf coach at Michigan, said she is always thrilled for her players who find success in the summer.
“There’s a point of pride, but mostly I’m just really happy for them,” she said. “I’m especially happy for Mikaela because earlier this summer she came so close in the (Michigan Women’s Amateur). I think this could be a breakthrough win for her. She is such a committed young woman and it was great to see her win. It was awesome.”
Dowling said Schulz continues to improve her game, and that it is a testament to hard work and dedication.
“She was really a huge contributor this spring,” she said. “Her record this spring showed a lot of even par rounds in the final rounds. She tended to get off with slow starts and then finish with a bang. She was often in our fifth spot so to get an even-par round in the final rounds of tournaments really helped.”
Dowling expects her to continue to improve and perhaps finish her college golf career with a bang, too.
“She loves the game so much and her work effort never falters,” she said. “She’s also really inquisitive, a smart person. You follow her around for a day and you will see someone who is very dedicated. She takes a holistic approach. She loves to improve, reads a lot and works on her mental game.”
Schulz has worked with two golf teachers on her game – Martin Hall in Florida, and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame teacher Dave Kendall of Ypsilanti.
“With Martin I send him videos and we work more on swing fixes,” she said. “I work on similar things with Dave, but with him I also work on the whys — why do my shots shape this way or that and just what that means.”
She also works with lifetime fitness and yoga coaches Alex Schimmel and Alex Sheth.
“That has been impactful on my life,” she said, “and my golf, too. I feel like I’ve developed and see things coming together. My mind has shifted a bit. It’s been really cool and now I feel everything happens at the right time, nothing too late or too early.”
Clearly a thinker, she is a standout student and recently declared her major – bio psychology cognition and neuroscience. She said one of the reasons she picked Michigan was for the education the school promised.
“It’s a great school and a degree from there means a lot,” she said. “I will have career options with this direction.”
Of course, golf will not end with the college career for the two-time GAM Junior Girls’ Player of the Year. She has the dream of being an LPGA player like her cousin Morgan Pressel.
“With Morgan I’ve been around it and she is inspirational to me,” Schulz said. “It is my dream to travel the world and play professional golf like her. I will most likely try it and see how it goes.”