Meet the former club player who might get an NCAA Championship ring

Brian Westerholt/Sports on Film

Meet the former club player who might get an NCAA Championship ring

College

Meet the former club player who might get an NCAA Championship ring

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Monica Schumacher and Jennifer Kupcho watch the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” on Monday nights. The former club player and No. 1 amateur in the world have become close friends since Schumacher bailed out the Wake Forest varsity team two short years ago.

Wake Forest has a chance to win the school’s first NCAA Championship team title on Wednesday afternoon at the Blessings Golf Course. Kupcho, the queen of Augusta National, will be the focal point of the final match against Duke. But on the sidelines in Fayetteville, fresh off a graduation walk, will be Schumacher, a whip-smart woman who might be the first club team player to earn a national championship ring.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Schumacher said outside the clubhouse on Wednesday after the Demon Deacons ousted Auburn in the semifinal round.

NCAA FINAL: Matchups for Wake Forest vs. Duke

Schumacher didn’t hit a shot, but she’s one of the best stories in college golf.

It started two years ago when former Wake Forest coach Dianne Dailey sent Schumacher an email asking her to come check out the school’s practice facility, adding that they might need her to play for the team. Wake’s two all-star freshmen – Sierra Brooks and Mathilda Cappeliez – had quit. Wake Forest nose-dived from potential NCAA title contender to can’t fill a five-player roster.

“I did a double-take,” said Schumacher. “Is this a spam?”

Schumacher showed up and Dailey took a look at her swing, calling it athletic.

“We’ll call you if we need you,” Dailey said.

Monica Schumaher of Wake Forest. Photo: Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film

Two days later Schumacher was signing papers and in a van heading to ACCs in a matter of hours. She didn’t know a single person on the team, but Kupcho had sent an encouraging text: “Thank you so much for helping me out. Literally, like you’re a savior. We hope you feel at home. We don’t want to put any pressure on you.”

Wake Forest needed five players to compete in the ACC Championship. They brought a club-team player and another walk-on, Anna Wears, to fill out the roster. Schumacher finished last, shooting 91-95-88, one place ahead of Wears. Wake Forest also placed last as a team but Kupcho – a Player of the Year contender, finished second. The Deacs took the same team to regionals, where Kupcho took the individual title to advance to the NCAA Championship as an individual.

Most college golf fans can pick up the story here. Kupcho suffered a disappointing loss at NCAAs that year only to rebound and win it all in 2018. She’d go on to win the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, becoming the first woman to hoist a trophy at the iconic club.

LIVE BLOG: Follow final-round action

No matter what happens in the NCAA finals, Kupcho has made an indelible mark on the college and amateur game at Wake Forest.

But Schumacher has too.

Two years ago Schumacher was competing from the women’s tees with her club team. They’d have five players on a good day when they met for practice once a week. There weren’t any other women’s club teams in all of North Carolina and South Carolina so Schumacher’s squad took on the men.

“The guys were super rowdy,” she said.

Schumacher’s high school team in Basking Ridge, N.J., won three state championships. She thought about trying to play at the next level but thought it might be too much trying to pursue a pre-med degree.

Playing against the men was a fun way to keep up her game. Schumacher finished in the top 20 a couple times.

“It’s funny when you get on the first tee and I’m on there swinging and they’re like ‘Oh, this should be interesting,” said Schumacher, “and then I pipe it past their ball they’re like ‘What?’ …

It’s kind of cool to show ’em what’s up sometimes.”

Practicing alongside Kupcho and Co. on a regular basis drastically changed Schumacher’s game. She broke 70 in qualifiers, even competed in nationals as a non-scholarship player.

“Actually, at last NCAAs I was leading the tournament for six holes,” said Schumacher, who was in the first group off at Karsten Creek and birdied No. 1.

While Kupcho heads to the U.S. Women’s Open to make her LPGA debut next week, Schumacher, who graduated with a 3.97 GPA, will move back home to Orlando, Fla., to move in with her brother. She plans to become a certified nursing assistant, hopefully in pediatric daycare, for one year before applying to physician’s assistant school.

Kupcho’s legacy as a Wake Forest alum will only grow from here. The Schumacher name will be a mere footnote.

But when it’s all over, she might have the better story to tell.

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