Just a few years ago, he could be found skating on the ice, stick in hand, pursuing a collegiate hockey career. Now he’s replaced the skates for golf shoes, the stick for clubs and the ice for plush green grass.
Oklahoma senior golfer Michael Schoolcraft started playing hockey when he was 5 years old, immediately falling in love with the sport. The Denver, Colo., native knew he wanted to play in college, so he and his parents began to look for a team he could join where scouts would notice him.
They decided they needed to tour schools in the Northeast, where hockey is wildly popular. Despite looking at six schools, as soon as Schoolcraft visited Salisbury Prep School in Connecticut, he knew that was where he wanted to go.
He started attending Salisbury when he was 13 years old and stayed there for two and a half years. After suffering an injury, Schoolcraft started to consider that hockey might not be the path he wanted to pursue any longer. He called his parents to tell him he still wanted to play a collegiate sport, just not hockey, and they decided he should move home.
“(Playing at the prep school) was a special event in my life, but I think it just got overwhelming, and I kind of lost passion for it,” Schoolcraft says. “I think it had wear and tear on my body, and I just said, ‘I don’t think I can do this for the rest of my life.’”
Once he returned to Colorado, he picked up golf clubs and decided to try to gain a scholarship through that sport. Growing up, Schoolcraft had played occasional weekend rounds with his dad and brother, Beau, who competed for the University of Colorado, but he did not begin entering golf tournaments until halfway through his junior year of high school.
At the time, he “wasn’t even a golfer. I was just a no-name hockey player,” Schoolcraft shares. But he kept signing up for competitive tournaments around the nation, trying to do whatever he could to earn a scholarship.
Eventually, Schoolcraft qualified for the 2009 USGA Junior Amateur, where he began to receive attention from collegiate coaches, including OU head coach Ryan Hybl. When Schoolcraft visited Norman, he said he had an instant feeling that it could be his second home, just as he felt when moving to Connecticut.
At the start of Schoolcraft’s Sooner career, his stroke average was high – sixth or seventh on the team – and he “didn’t know anything about golf,” Hybl shares. Now, there is no denying that Schoolcraft has transformed into a talented and successful collegiate golfer.
In his senior season, he boasts the best average on the team, a 72.30 (+0.68). Last year as a junior, his 72.84 (+1.39) scoring average was second best among the Sooners. For his career, Schoolcraft has recorded seven top-five finishes, including three this season, eight top-10 finishes and 21 top-20 showings.
At the competitive SH Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, Nev., in March, Schoolcraft fired a 3-over 219 to tie for a career-best second place against a 79-player field that featured 20 of the top 30 individuals, according to the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
“It’s a pretty amazing transformation, to be honest,” Hybl states. “A lot of it is he believes he’s supposed to be really good, so that’s No. 1. No. 2 is that he’s figured out how to manage his game.”
Consistent play has been Schoolcraft’s major contribution to the squad this season, partly due to learning how to manage himself during tournament rounds, Hybl says.
“Mike’s done a really nice job all year long of staying in the moment,” Hybl explains. “If he gets off to a bad start, he seems to fight back. If he starts off really well, he just kind of hangs in there and keeps pushing.”
Partway through his junior season is when Hybl believes Schoolcraft started to understand the little aspects of his game he could adjust in order to play a strong round of golf and become a very good player. Schoolcraft’s early career is very different from the finish, and Hybl says he is excited to see the senior go out on a good note.
Even though hockey and golf may seem to have no correlation, Schoolcraft shares that the discipline he learned on the ice has been beneficial to him on the golf course. When it came to his initial interest in golf, Schoolcraft says he enjoyed how hard it was and the opportunity to improve each and every day.
“I knew I was decent at it, but it made me wake up every day wanting to get that much better because it’s such a hard sport, and with hockey, I got to a plateau and stayed there,” Schoolcraft explains. “With golf you can get better, whether it’s putting, chipping, driver, long irons, any aspect. Every single day you can get better at anything. I really enjoyed how hard and difficult it is and how hard you need to focus on every little aspect of the game.”
While Schoolcraft confesses he still enjoys hockey and often plays pickup games with his friends during the summers, and that a few years ago he would have never believed he would be a golfer instead, he knows he now is where is supposed to be – playing golf for the University of Oklahoma.
“I would have laughed if someone said I was going to be here in college playing golf,” Schoolcraft admits. “I would have probably laughed at them. But I’m happy, just kind of following God’s path and what he’s going to do and I’m just blessed. But I would have never thought I would be playing college golf.”
The Sooners are smiling, too.