LPGA hopefuls Schechter, Cloots get real on the airwaves as hosts of Birdiecast

Beth Ann Nichols

LPGA hopefuls Schechter, Cloots get real on the airwaves as hosts of Birdiecast

Golf

LPGA hopefuls Schechter, Cloots get real on the airwaves as hosts of Birdiecast

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PINEHURST, N.C. – Maia Schechter and Leslie Cloots were playing a round at UNC’s Finley Golf Course before the start of the 2018 season – talking about side hustle – when the idea of a podcast came up. It started out as a joke, but by the end of the round the former Tar Heel teammates had a plan.

The latest episode of Birdiecast is titled “To Quit or Not to Quit.” It is, perhaps, a fitting topic at Q-Series, where 98 players are clawing their way through eight rounds at Pinehurst trying to secure a job on the LPGA. After finishing dead last at last year’s Q-Series, Schechter currently sits in a share of eighth with two rounds to go. The top 45 and ties earn LPGA status for 2020. Cloots is on the bag.

“Last year I wanted it so bad,” said Schechter, “but not for me really. A lot of my friends made it to the LPGA. I didn’t want to get left behind.”

A dose of reality

“I was going to quit from El Dorado to Rochester,” the podcast begins.

“I was going to quit three weeks ago.”

“I did quit for a while.”

Schechter and Cloots aim to give listeners, particularly young players, an inside glimpse into life on tour. The “quitting” podcast offers a strong dose of reality mixed with a little humor.

Cloots and Schechter (far right) during their days as Tar Heels. Photo submitted by Leslie Cloots

Schechter said she wanted to quit after the first year of professional golf. Guest Allie White, another former Tar Heel who plays on the Symetra Tour, hit the “pause” button on several occasions.

“I sort of had a life FOMO thing going on,” said White. “I think I just read too many books about people hiking mountains.”

Guest Casey Danielson, who played at Stanford, said she got in her car after the French Lick, Indiana, stop this season and broke down sobbing.

“It was full on ‘What the heck am I doing with my life?’ ” she said.

For a couple months she asked anyone who would listen how they felt about quitting. It didn’t help.

“What it came down to was I realized that if I was meant to quit, the decision would be easier,” she said. “I wouldn’t be feeling so bad about quitting.”

White, an Ohio native, recalled a particular low point when she failed to Monday-qualify for the LPGA stop in Toledo for the umpteenth time.

“There’s a nice dent in my car where the rage took over,” she said, “and I love my car.”

Growing a following

Around 300 people listen to Birdiecast each week, Schechter said. They’ve had a few companies reach out about sponsorships. A plug for Playoff, a dating app built exclusively for college and professional athletes, runs at the start of episodes.

“I feel like if we get to 1,000 (listeners) it would be like, ‘OK, I can die now,’ ” joked Cloots.

The pair thought about making T-shirts last year but tabled the idea. Stickers, however, are easy to carry around. They get pumped to see Birdiecast on their friends’ cars in player parking.

When the Symetra Tour comes up short on hole sponsors, sometimes officials give Birdiecast a little love.

One of their most popular shows, Schechter said, was a Q&A with Symetra Tour chief Mike Nichols. Prior to the show, the hosts asked players to send in questions on their tour’s Facebook forum. A popular one: Where does my $500 entry fee go?

“We grilled him with some pretty difficult questions, I feel like,” said Schechter, who appreciated Nichols’ candor.

The goal is to post an episode every week during the season. They had a few dry spells this year when Cloots went to the Ladies European Tour.

Before they check out for 2019, the pair plans to give the scoop on their two weeks inside the ropes together at Pinehurst.

It might be time to take this show to the LPGA.

 

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