By Jim Bastian
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - This past high school golf season, New Ulm High School's Kelton Schmitz finished seventh in the Minnesota State High School Golf Tournament.
But this past week, Schmitz did something that no high school player from Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota or Manitoba did.
He finished 38th in the Optimist Junior Golf Championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Schmitz, the son of Tom Schmitz and Kim Hemphill-Schmitz, made the cut after Day 3 and then finished tied for 38 on Day 4 while 14-over par.
The winning score was a golfer from Thailand who finished an 12-under par.
"We played at the Palmer Course one day and then at the Fazio Course the next day," said Schmitz, who will be golfing for Minnesota State-Mankato next year. "At the Palmer Course you could normally rip your driver right down the middle. There was water on almost every hole. You had to hit your shot in the middle of the fairway to do well I found a way to do that."
Schmitz said that both courses were "so different but so similiar."
"There were OB (Out of bounds) on your tee shots at the Fazio and water off of tee shots at the Palmer," he said.
Schmitz qualified for the tournament at the Blackberry Ridge Golf Course near Sartell with a 70 - Ethan Kraus of New Ulm shot a 79 and Collin Huffman shot an 80. He said that the best part of his game in Florida was finding the fairway off of the tee shots.
"My chipping helped me a lot but my putting was the thing that brought me down the most," Schmitz said. "That is normally the best part of my game. The greens were so hard to read and they were so much different from the greens that we play on here. It was a big difference in the change."
As far as course management goes, Schmitz said that he tried his best to hit the fairway off of tee shots.
"Then I would find a way to hit the green even if it is a long putt," he said. "The greens were pretty easy to two-putt. I just wanted to try and find my way for a birdie chance."
Schmitz shot rounds of 78, 74, 76 and 74 to finish 38th in a field of nearly 150 boys.
The difference may just be the time that golfers can spend on courses.
"Some are able to golf year-round, that is a given," Schmitz said. "And being able to hit the fairway and hit greens because there is so much water in play unlike the courses that are around here. It forces you to hit a good shot off of the tee because there is so much water in OB."
Schmitz said that the experience will help him next season at Mankato.
"It shows me the kind of competition that I will be facing," he said. "I know that I have to work on being consistent off of my tee shots."