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Sammy Schmitz living dream, GoFundMe to Masters

By Mike Sullivan, The Sports Xchange
Sammy Schmitz living dream, GoFundMe to Masters
Patrons gather near the Masters scoreboard during a practice round before the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National in Augusta, Georgia on April 5, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

Sammy Schmitz is surely one of the most unlikely golfers to ever make the field at the Masters.

He will most definitely enjoy every step he takes and every ball he hits when play begins at Augusta National on Thursday.

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The 35-year-old amateur who hails from Minnesota and now lives in River Falls, Wis., landed a spot in America's biggest golf event by winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur title at Vero Beach, Fla.

The pivotal shot in October's victory occurred when he shot a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole.

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Repeat: An amateur hit a hole-in-one on a par-4.

Schmitz is the weekend golfer personified and his journey to the Masters resonated with others who shared the same type of Masters' dreams.

Schmitz and wife Natalie opened up a GoFundMe account to help play for their Masters' expenses. Donations came pouring in and the account received $25,000 from strangers in two-plus days.

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The family halted the fundraising right then and there as they were concerned they were going to receive way much more than their goal of $30,000.

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When it comes to the actual tournament, Schmitz is certainly a long shot to make the cut and even a longer shot to take home a green jacket.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Schmitz/GoFundMe

He is listed at 2,500-to-1 odds to win by one Vegas oddsmaker - the same line as 1998 Masters champ Mark O'Meara - and lesser odds than Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle (both 5,000 to 1) and Larry Mize (9,000 to 1).

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Battling the nerves will be another battle for Schmitz, who felt in a surreal zone when he played a practice round at Augusta National a few months ago.

"I looked around in awe," Schmitz told ESPN, "and I kept thinking about all the shots I'd seen the greats hit over the years on that golf course."

Schmitz took a shot at a pro golf career after being a Division III All-American at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn. He competed on the Hooters Tour but success was fleeting and he eventually put down the clubs.

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He re-emerged in 2011 as an amateur and won the Minnesota state title. Schmitz has won the state's amateur title in four of the last five years.

That return-to-golf journey now puts Schmitz on a stage he never could have envisioned. One where strangers are happily paying his travel expenses and Jordan Spieth is one of his competitors and not somebody he's watching on television.

When the competitive juices start flowing Thursday, Schmitz wants his time on the revered course to span four days, not two.

"Yes, I want to make the cut," Schmitz told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I'm also determined to have fun. This will be such a great experience for me, and my family and friends. I want to enjoy this."

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