Nov. 27, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Tom Rohrer, Editor, ThurstonTalk
Kyle Schrader's confidence was sky high. He had just shot his best collegiate round in the most important tournament of his career to that point.
A sophomore member of the Western Washington University golf team, Schrader had just won the NCAA Division II West Regional Championship at The Home Course in DuPont on May, 6, and was now about to take the first tee at the NCAA Division II National Championship at Hersey Country Club in Hersey, P.A.
What happened next is common in golf, a game known for its ups and downs.
Kyle Schrader, a 2011 graduate of Tumwater High School, is preparing to lead Western Washington University to another national championship round.
"After winning regionals, I was thinking, `Man, I can win this,'" said Schrader as he entered the national competition. "The first round I didn't play well, but well enough to be in the top ten after the first round. I got off to slow start in the second and I think I started putting too much pressure on myself. I got so wrapped up in my score."
After shooting a 72 on the first day of the tournament, Schrader submitted an 85 for the second round on his scorecard.
While the middle round put him out of individual contention, Schrader rebounded with a 75 on the final day to finish with a total of 232.
More importantly, Schrader was part of a Vikings team that took third place in the country, the highest in school history.
To be a part of team that has already recorded history gives Schrader a sense of accomplishment and pride.
"That was just a great experience, something that was really fun to experience as a team with those guys," said Schrader, who finished third at the 2A State Championship as a senior at Tumwater in 2011. "It's something you won't forget."
With their success, the Vikings have been the recipient of continued expectation for the 2013 season.
Per the Golf World/Nike Golf Coaches Preseason Poll, the Vikings are ranked ninth in the country, thanks to the return of Schrader and Mark Strickland, a sophomore.
However, the Vikings must replace three of last season's top player, and longtime head coach Steve Card, who will be the school's interim director this year. The head coaching position will be filled by interim coach Luke Bennett.
Schrader knows his leadership will be needed by the team's less experienced players, and he plans to set an example similar to those of his former teammates.
Kyle Schrader won the NCAA Division II Men's Regional Golf Tournament held in May at The Home Course in DuPont, Washington.
"We have as much or more talent as last year but the key for me (and Strickland) is having to fill in for consistency," said Schrader, who started his collegiate career at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif. "In practice, we need to set the tone with intensity. We're not out to fool around and want to take each practice round as if it were the final round of nationals."
Now an established leader on a top-ten college golf team, it's hard to believe that Schrader only picked up the game competitively as a freshmen at Tumwater.
Prior to his time at THS, Schrader would play a yearly round with his father Tom, a former basketball player at the University of South Carolina.
After playing at the Tumwater Valley Golf Club for his first three years at Tumwater, Schrader's home course became Indian Summer Golf Club in east Olympia heading into his senior year.
There, Schrader would continue to consistently play with Tumwater teammate and current Pacific Lutheran University golfer Seth Nickerson, and develop a new friendship with Dominick Francks, the 2011 4A state golf champion from Olympia High School who is now a member of the Stanford University golf team.
"I wouldn't say we were enemies, but we didn't like each other all that much," said Schrader of Francks. "We were always competing and he was the guy I was going after. But we both enjoyed playing each other and it went from there."
Schrader still plays with Nickerson and Francks during the summer and says it's important to remain competitive in such practice rounds.
"I think the best golfers, no matter if it's the final day of nationals or just playing with buddies, treat every round the same. I like maintaining that competitiveness each round," said Schrader, the son of Tiffany Schrader and brother of Macey.
With championship experience in his back pocket, increased focus on the course and holding a leadership position within the Vikings team, Schrader is confident and focused on consistency.
"I needed to work on my consistency, just shot for shot round for round. I think I improved but still feel I have a ways to go," said Schrader, a business management major who received honorable mention honors on the 2012-13 Golf Coaches Association of America Division II PING All-America team. "It's a great spot to be in. Western is a great school. We get to play at Bellingham Golf and Country Club and our coaching staff has always been great. Now it's just time to balance everything out and play some golf."