Sarah Schuster has enjoyed playing junior golf with Franklin’s Hailey Smoot for as long as she can remember, so the temptation to be college teammates together was too good to pass up.
That was a big reason behind the Union Grove senior’s announcement last week that she will attend Carthage College and play golf for the Lady Reds. And room in the dorms with Smoot.
“We played together on the (WPGA Junior) Tour a bunch of times and we got along so well,” said Schuster, who chose Carthage over interest from UW-Whitewater and NCAA Division II University of Sioux Falls (S.D.). “It was awesome when I heard that she was going there.”
Schuster, the runner-up to Waterford’s Taitum Beck in the Southern Lakes Conference last fall, was a two-time WIAA Division 1 state qualifier. As a senior, she shot 89-78 and finished tied for 24th -- with Smoot, no less -- a year after shooting a pair of 87s and finishing alone in 38th.
At Carthage, Smoot and Schuster -- ranked 11th and 16th, respectively, in the Wisconsin.Golf state ranking of the girls Class of 2017 -- give coach Mike Scardina two solid recruits to help offset the upcoming graduation losses of Emily Santucci, Aleksandra Steinert and Stephanie Walter. In addition, they follow strong recruiting classes that led No. 1 golfer Sarah Lyman and No. 3 golfer Carlee Dawson to Carthage in 2015 and No. 2 golfer CheyAnn Knudsen in 2016.
“I hope to definitely help the team win tournaments,” Schuster said, noting that Scardina told her he believes she can be an NCAA Division III All-American. “That’s one of my goals, but (it’s more) to help my team progress and win tournaments. He said they are losing some girls and I would be a really good person to fill those spots, that I’d definitely make the team better.”
In turn, Schuster believes Scardina and graduate assistant coach Carly Werwie -- a former University of Wisconsin golfer who played the Symetra Tour -- can make her better.
“That was the other deciding factor, that I liked Carly so much,” said Schuster, whose first priority was finding a Division III school that would allow her the freedom to balance her academic pursuits -- she wants to study business -- with the opportunity to play golf.
“I figured she would be really helpful to me. … I really liked the coaching staff; They were so nice to me. I know players on the team, too, so that was nice and I got along with them.“
Schuster learned through the recruiting process that relationship-building is a big key.
“Look at the dynamic that the team has and (how they are) getting along with the coaches,” Schuster said. “I think that’s important because you have to have a good relationship with them in order to do well.”