After struggling to stay on the Nationwide Tour, former Missouri and Hickman golfer Jason Schultz is starting to climb the ranks.
Schultz is sixth on the 2005 money list, through 12 events. The Nationwide Tour is the minor-league circuit of the PGA Tour that was created in 1990 and was the starting ground for former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk.
Schultz’s break came a little more than two weeks ago when he made a 20-foot birdie putt on the sixth playoff hole to win the Chattanooga Classic. It was the first Nationwide event he has won after being on the tour for five years.
His early years were rough. His first year on the tour, 1999, he won less than $2,000 in 13 events.
“Playing poorly was the best thing that happened to me,” Schultz said. “It showed me I had a lot of work to do.”
Schultz has improved on his earnings every year since his first and is gaining momentum. Last year he placed 40th on the money list with $139,418. This year he has won $139, 591 through 12 events, with more than 15 events to go.
“I worked harder and harder every year and finally started to see results last year,” Schultz said. “I feel like I can win each time I tee it up.”
Schultz was born in Tampa, Fla., but has lived in Columbia for most of his life. Although he lives in Dallas, Texas, Schultz says Columbia is still his home.
Schultz began playing golf after his grandfather, Bob Buschmeyer, gave him a set of golf clubs when he was 10. He played with his grandfather on the weekends in Boonville, until he was 11 when his grandfather bought him a membership at L.A. Nickell, one of Columbia’s municipal golf courses. He played every day during the summer. He would typically play after working in the pro-shop at Nickell, which he did for seven years.
Life for a Nationwide golfer is not the same as a golfer on the PGA Tour. By comparison, Fred Funk stands at sixth on the money list on the PGA Tour and has won more than $2.5 million.
“It’s hard to play when you’re trying to just make a paycheck.” Schultz said. “There were times when it was tight.”
During the years in which he played poorly, Schultz would return to Columbia during the winter to substitute teach at junior highs and high schools, including his alma mater, Hickman.
In the beginning of his career, Schultz would depend on his earnings from a previous tournament to pay for the roughly $1,500 in expenses (traveling, lodging and entry fees) for the next week’s tournament.
He has changed the way he looks at events.
“I always struggled to make the cut because I played to make the cut. Now I’m focused on winning the tournament.” Schultz said.
Schultz says his wife’s constant support has made him a better golfer. He married his wife, Stacey, in April of last year and they are expecting their first baby, a girl, in November.
At the end of each year’s Nationwide Tour, the top-20 on the money list move up to the PGA tour. Schultz says that it is his ultimate goal.
“I am in a great spot now,” he said, “but by no means accomplished my goal.”
Randy Smith, the head golf professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, has worked with Schultz on-and-off for the past year and has seen him mature.
“He is in marvelous position to get his tour card.” Smith said. “He has to continue doing what he has been doing.”