CHULA VISTA, Calif. – With her daughter waiting to be interviewed on national television, Delisa Schubert snuck off behind the 13th hole near a tree to call her husband.
Bill Schubert never misses an event, but the home builder had a tight deadline to meet and couldn’t make it to his youngest daughter’s U.S. Women’s Amateur debut. He was sobbing on the other end of the phone, overcome with joy.
“He’s hysterical,” said Delisa.
The family discussed having Bill fly in from Knoxville, Tenn., at the last minute on Sunday, but ultimately decided it was best not to mess with the mojo. It didn’t help that a ticket to San Diego cost around $2,000.
“I’ve worn these shoes every day,” said Delisa, looking down at her sandals. Texas coach Ryan Murphy carried the bag all week for senior Sophia Schubert and never shaved. Routines stayed the same for the Schuberts at San Diego Country Club, with Sophia refusing to pose with the Robert Cox Trophy for her mother’s Facebook page until she’d won it all.
When she could finally hold it, even kiss the elegant hardware, Sophia didn’t want to put it down.
— USGA (@USGA) August 13, 2017
“I want to take it everywhere with me,” she said.
Schubert, 21, wore down the No. 3-ranked player in the world in Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela, 6 and 5, in the 36-hole final. Schubert went 29 holes without a bogey between the semifinal match and the 21st hole of the final.
For a woman who started off with a number of three-putts, even a four-putt, in stroke-play qualifying, she’d mastered the speed by Sunday.
“These greens are some of the most difficult greens that I’ve played on,” said Schubert, who finished last season No. 49 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “The speed, especially downhill, it’s incredible.”
On the 29th hole, Schubert drained a 25-footer for birdie from off the green, putting a dagger in Valenzuela. Once that putt dropped, Schubert, now 5 up, allowed herself to believe that victory was imminent.
“It was one of those days where just I couldn’t make the putts,” said Valenzuela, who had lost the European Amateur by a single stroke before coming to San Diego.
“I kept believing.”
The Stanford sophomore was among the favorites from the start of the week, having competed in the 2016 Olympics and a host of major championships. Valenzuela, 19, and younger brother/caddie Alexis won the hearts of many who followed the championship with their inspiring story.
Alexis, 15, was diagnosed with autism as a young boy and didn’t speak for the first five years of his life. He’s now fluent in French and English and can hold his own in Spanish. Albane calls his progress a miracle.
“My brother is kind of everything to me,” said Albane, who wrote about how Alexis’ autism shaped her in the essay portion of her Stanford application.
Valenzuela’s appearance in the final of the Women’s Am gave her an exemption into the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open field. She has already promised Alexis, who dreams of winning his own major, the chance to carry the bag.
Schubert’s golf career started at 3 years, 11 months, when Delisa signed her up for a 30-minute lesson. She wanted her two daughters to have an activity in which they could bond with their father. Bill, a recreational player, ultimately became more caddie than player. Their oldest daughter, Savanna, played college golf at Lipscomb, and Sophia won three Tennessee high school state championships while competing for the Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Bill typically lives and dies with each shot. He looped for Sophia earlier this summer when she advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Western Amateur. This time, however, he had to rely on video and text message updates from Delisa until television coverage started.
On Sunday, Bill and Savanna gathered together with the grandparents and friends in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for a viewing party. By the time television coverage started, Sophia held a 4-up lead after the first 18 holes. Not even a two-hour break for lunch could thwart her form.
“For her to win this tournament,” said Murphy. “She showed me that she’s just really strong mentally, I think more than anything. Maybe more than I even knew.”
At age 4, Delisa said, a local television crew interviewed Sophia and she declared that she wanted to be a pro golfer. The dream has never felt closer.
“I’ve always wanted to go pro,” said Sophia, “but this really did it for me.”
But first, there’s one more year of college, exemptions into LPGA majors and a berth on the 2018 U.S. Curtis Cup team. Schubert became the first Longhorn to win the Women’s Am since Kelli Kuehne produced back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996 and the oldest champion since Amanda Blumenherst in 2008.
“I’ve just worked so hard for this,” said Sophia, “to finally be able to win something like this, it’s incredible.”