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Playing for Everything

Apr 3, 2015
by Chelsea Commodari, '15, Photo by Zach Thomas, '00

It’s a quote about pain being temporary, but the shame of quitting lasting forever that has kept Flagler golfer Spencer Schindler going through difficult times, both on and off the golf course.

Schindler has had his share — from having to work to help his mother pay bills to losing his home — and that drive to never quit has now helped the junior win the prestigious 2014 David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award.

Presented by the Golf Coaches Association of America, the award named after the PGA Tour player goes to a college golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence. Toms’ own foundation partnered with the association in 2010 to recognize collegiate athletes who have overcome major hurdles.

“It’s a huge honor for me, and it’s amazing to know that someone at the level of David Toms knows my name,” Schindler said, who was interviewed both on the Golf Channel and in Golfweek magazine. “I’m happy that my hard work has been recognized.”

That hard work hasn’t just been on the golf course, but also in dealing with numerous trials and tribulations that never seemed in short supply while he was growing up.

Overcoming adversity
In 2007, his mother was severely injured while on the job. No longer able to work, the two were forced to move from Savannah, Ga., to live with Schindler’s grandfather in St. Augustine. While his mother found a job at a local grocery store, Schindler had to get a job to help pay bills. He began working at The First Tee of St. Johns County at age 15. While his paychecks went to household expenses, his grandfather helped him pay for golf tournaments so he could keep pursuing his love for the sport.

Schindler committed to Flagler in December 2011, partly to stay close to his mother.

“My mom was my biggest influence in staying,” he said. “Since our finances were pretty tight when I was making the transition to college, I decided that it would be best if I stayed close in case she ever needed any help with anything. Of course, me staying close made her pretty happy.”

But shortly after committing to Flagler, his grandfather fell and broke his hip. He passed away in the spring of 2012, just as Schindler was preparing to make the transition from high school to college the next fall. Unable to pay the rent on his grandfather’s house, the mother and son lost their home and found themselves selling everything they could before moving into an RV with one bedroom and a pullout couch.

While life off the golf course wasn’t easy, Schindler said he owes his perseverance and drive to overcome obstacles to his mother.

“My mom raised me to be a pretty tough-minded person,” he said. “The death of my grandpa was really rough, especially around the time of his funeral. And it was really hard for me to stop playing as much golf and devote more time to work. I’ve learned from the entire financial situation and family struggle, and have become strong from it. All in all, it’s somewhat helped me.”

Schindler has been around golf since he was 2 years old, and started playing regularly at age 7.

A love for golf
“My grandpa played a lot, and he truly sparked my interest in the game,” he said. “He would take me out of school early to play or hit range balls. At first, getting out of school was the most exciting part of the game.”

That was the case until people began noticing him at the driving range. As he began to receive multiple compliments from strangers about his swing, Schindler’s confidence continued to build over the years.

Now in college he’s become a standout. During his sophomore year, he was able to improve his stroke average by three shots, and was selected as a Division II PING First-Team All-America selection.

Last year Schindler was also a first-team All-Peach Belt Conference selection and led the team with a 71.67 strokes per round average, winning two events and racking up four top five finishes.

Throughout it he has also maintained a 3.24 GPA.  

Schindler is excited about the spring season, but says he is hardly where he wants to be with golf.

“I would expect things this spring season,” he said about the men’s golf team. “Everyone has a really good work ethic and we work together really well. I can say that we are more of a family than a team. We are all competing really well and are hungry for success.”

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