Before winning golf tournaments in college, and spending countless hours on driving ranges and in putting contests, Kyle Schrader only played golf once a year.
The 2011 Tumwater High School graduate’s passion for the game came in high school. He was burned out by baseball after his freshman year and took up the game.
After making it to the state golf tournament as a sophomore, he was cut from the basketball team his junior year and suddenly found himself with a lot more time on his hands.
“It’s funny how that worked out,” Schrader said, who used to play golf only on his father Tom’s birthday growing up.
Schrader begins a busy summer of golf at the annual Capitol City Men’s Amateur this weekend at Capitol City Golf Club in Lacey, where 152 participants will make up a full field for the third consecutive year.
The tournament tees off 7:30 a.m. Saturday and continues Sunday. And there will be a new champion this year, as three-time winner Jon McCaslin is not in the field.
Schrader just wrapped up his freshman year at Biola University near Anaheim, Calif. He had a breakout season, sharing No. 1 golfer honors with junior teammate Josh Mathis this spring.
In April, Schrader won the Cal-Pac Championships in Roseville, Calif., firing a three-day total of 226. He birdied holes 17 and 18 on the final day to complete a come-from-behind victory after shooting a 7-over 79 on Day 1.
A month later, he followed it up with a sixth-place finish (75-74-73–222) at the NAIA national qualifier. His 1-over 73 on the final day moved him up from 11th place, six shots out of first.
His golf stardom almost never happened. Baseball and basketball were his joys, but his height was a challenge.
He was barely 5-feet tall as a freshman in high school, and stood about 5-6 as a senior. But a recent growth spurt has him at 6-0.
After playing baseball as a freshman, he decided he wanted a change. Two years later, having played “C” team and junior varsity basketball, he was cut from the program.
While he was devastated at the time, it soon became a blessing; he had more time in the drizzly winters to focus on golf at Indian Summer Golf Club or Tumwater Valley Municipal Golf Course. He began regularly playing in tournaments.
“If I would’ve made the (basketball) team,” Schrader said, “maybe I wouldn’t be where I am with golf.”
A three-year varsity golfer and three-time state participant, Schrader finished tied for third (75-76–151) at the 2011 2A state tournament at The Classic Golf Course in Spanaway as a senior – the highest state finisher by a Tumwater boys golfer.
A week earlier, he missed qualifying for the U.S. Open Sectionals by two shots (38-35–73) at Cle Elum’s Tumble Creek Golf Club but gained invaluable experience by being paired with Olympia native and Capital High School graduate Andres Gonzales, who currently is second on the Nationwide Tour money list. Schrader said playing alongside Gonzales was a jump-start for him.
“I saw his game, and I saw what it takes to make it to the next level and it completely opened my eyes,” Schrader said. “It was really cool.”
In middle school while playing a round of golf with his father and a friend at the Airport Golf and Batting Center near the Olympia Airport, Schrader made his first hole-in-one on No. 7 at the nine-hole course.
The achievement came just a half hour after the threesome talked about how rare the feat is.
“I haven’t had a hole-in-one since,” Schrader said.
A Business Management major, Schrader plans to stay around golf as a career, but still has a lot of playing left to do.
Schrader will play in the three-day Oregon Open Invitational next week, followed by the Tacoma City Amateur on June 16-17 and 24.
Last year at Capitol City, Schrader fired back-to-back 76s for a 152.
Capitol City general manager and tournament director Steve McNelly said the field became full last Friday, and they had to turn away around 40 golfers. He also noted the course is in “fantastic shape.”
“(The greens) are as fast as they have ever been,” McNelly said.
Capitol City Mens Amateur
Where: Capitol City Golf Club, 5225 Yelm Highway, S.E., Olympia
First tee time: 7:30 a.m. both days
Defending champion: Jon McCaslin (66-68--134). Also won event in 2009 and 10.