October 21, 2014

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Girls golf 2013: Avon Lake’s Niki Schroeder has only one goal … to be the best she can be

Afteer finishing second in the Division I state tournament last year, Avon Lake junior Niki Schroeder decided to work even harder at her game. LINDA MURPHY/CHRONICLE

After finishing second in the Division I state tournament last year, Avon Lake junior Niki Schroeder decided to work even harder at her game. LINDA MURPHY/CHRONICLE

It’s usually not hard for Niki Schroeder’s family and friends to find her. All they have to do is check the golf course.

Schroeder isn’t living the life of luxury, in fact, she’s striving to achieve her dream of being the best golfer in the state, the country and eventually the world.

The Avon Lake junior nearly checked off her first goal when she placed second in the Division I state tournament last year after taking 10th as a freshman.

Schroeder traveled the country on the junior circuit over the summer, playing in events such as the Annika Invitational in Orlando, Fla., hosted by LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam, and the United State Golf Association Girls Junior Championships.

“Going to the Annika Invitational was unbelievable, getting to meet Annika in person and playing against the best players in the world,” Schroeder said.

She also traveled to additional tournaments in Florida and North Carolina and made her first attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open. But it’s the work Schroeder puts in at the driving range and on the putting green that separates her from the competition.

“I’m very disciplined in everything I do,” Schroeder said. “Coming to the range, playing practice rounds, even working out and sticking to eating plans and proper nutrition. I know I need to remain disciplined. I want to be on the course with the best players in the world and eventually beat them. That drives me to get to the practice range when I feel like taking a day off.”

That hard work has already paid off for Schroeder during this high school season with some low, low scores. Like a 69 to win the Edison Invitational for the third straight year. Or how about a nine-hole, school-record 31 in a tri-match on the White Course?

She followed those rounds up with a 5-under 30 on the Audrey Course at Emerald Woods, shot a 33 at Avon Oaks and brought home a 3-under 32 at Little Met. Her nine-hole average is 33.4. Last year she averaged 73.1 for 18 holes.

“Niki’s work ethic is unbelievable, but what separates her is her mental preparation,” Avon Lake coach Kevin Fitch said. “I have not seen an athlete in any sport that I have coached that has the mental capacity to just put a mistake behind them and keep going.”

Fitch had heard about Schroeder’s exploits in junior golf before she reached high school, but said you really have to see her play to appreciate her talent.

“She has the shots you see on TV on Sundays,” he said. “We’re here on the range sometimes and there will be a group of guys down at the other end and they just turn around and watch when they hear her swing. She’s just fun to watch.”

“Niki is a great teammate,” Fitch added. “Whenever we talk about goals for the season she always talks about team goals. We’re trying to go to districts as team for the sixth year in a row and it’s very important to her to see the team succeed.”

Schroeder, who has already orally committed to The Ohio State University, is happy to have the high school recruiting process behind her.

She’s also promised her mother that she will stay at Ohio State until she graduates, but she’s always thinking of the future and where she hopes her golf game will lead her.

“It would mean so much and be so incredible to be in the U.S. Open one day, knowing that all the work paid off,” she said. “But I just don’t want to get there once. I want to be one of those players who are there year after year.”

Before making the jump to the next level, Schroeder still has some goals to achieve in high school.

“I want to win a state championship and I want to put Avon Lake on the map,” Schroeder said. “Not just for myself but for my entire school. I hope when my high school career is over, everyone here will be proud of me.”

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.