FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Trey Schaap probably was happy he didn’t have to discuss Tuesday’s opening round at the 2014 USGA Men’s State Team Championship on his regular afternoon radio sports-talk show.
The 38-year-old Schaap is accustomed to hearing from disgruntled and frustrated fans from 1-4 p.m. on KABZ (FM 103.7), the ESPN affiliate in Little Rock, Ark. He hosts Overtime with former Arkansas quarterback and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones, and also handles the pre- and post-game shows for University of Arkansas football games.
But after a disappointing 87 on the challenging Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, it was Schaap who needed a sounding board. Like the Monday morning quarterbacks he regularly hears from, Schaap had slightly higher expectations for his first competitive round in a USGA competition.
That’s why I have a day job, said Schaap. And that’s why I have two good partners, too.
Teammates Drew Greenwood and Wes McNulty also struggled on the 6,910-yard layout, shooting 78 and 81, respectively. The low two scores count towards the team total, meaning Schaap’s 87 was discarded.
For Schaap, representing his home state in this championship is the culmination of four years of dedication and hard work. Ever since he qualified for the 2010 Southern Amateur, his goal was to play in the Men’s State Team, so he started competing in virtually every Arkansas State Golf Association event to accumulate the necessary points for a spot on the three-man team.
After his radio shift during the summer, he made the five-minute drive from the station to work on his game at the Country Club of Little Rock, a historic club with a redesigned Keith Foster layout set amidst the hills near the Arkansas River. He even left his 9-year-old daughter’s dance competition in Tulsa, Okla., to make a 5½-hour drive to an ASGA event.
Between being away at Arkansas football and basketball games for the fall and winter, and his summer golf schedule, Schaap sacrificed plenty of family time. He credits his wife, Leslie, and daughter, Arden, for their patience and understanding.
My wife and daughter have put up with me being gone a whole lot, said Schaap, who also has teamed with McNulty to win the last six Pine Bluff Country Club Four-Ball titles. I owe them a lot.
Schaap has been a competitive golfer since his prep days at Parkview High in Little Rock, where he also played basketball. His athletic talents weren’t good enough to play at Mississippi State, where he first attended college before transferring to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock (UALR) to focus on his burgeoning broadcasting career.
For the past 11 years, he has worked at KABZ in a variety of capacities. His studio show has aired for the last two years, but Schaap’s first love is play-by-play, especially basketball. He’s done a number of high school games for the radio station, including state championships. Some of the athletes he’s covered include current Razorbacks Bobby Portis and Calli Berna, and KeVaughn Allen, a guard who is committed to the University of Florida. Berna, a star on the Arkansas women’s basketball team, hit a memorable 3-pointer at the buzzer in a two-overtime state championship game, and Portis claimed four straight state titles at Parkview High.
This year, he’ll venture into college play-by-play for the first time when he does UALR women’s basketball games. He and UALR women’s coach Joe Foley are good friends, so Schaap sees an easy transition.
While his career aspiration is to someday call men’s Division I college basketball games, he also loves fielding calls from fans and talking sports every afternoon with partner Jones. And in Little Rock, where there aren’t any major professional teams, that means a lot of discussion about Southeastern Conference football and basketball. Few fan bases are more rabid than those in the SEC, and the passion for Arkansas athletics in the state runs deep.
Schaap, who is not related to ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap, said there’s one rabid LSU fan that actually has been banned for his lunacy, although Schaap said we had to put out an APB on him after LSU lost to Mississippi State. He went into hiding.
For Schaap, taking calls certainly is less pressure than having to make a 5-foot putt. On Tuesday, Schaap stuffed his approach to the 10th hole, his first of the round, to 4 feet and promptly missed the birdie chance. Schaap said it was the challenging course, and not nerves, that got the best of him.
I didn’t have nerves all day, said Schaap. I just hit some bad shots where I got quick at the top.
Playing in a USGA championship is more pressure than my show. I can handle the callers. We’ve got some Alabama guys. We’ve got some Auburn guys. We’ve got Kentucky [fans]. It’s a lot of fun. Being in SEC country is awesome.
At least the Men’s State Team came at a good time in Schaap’s schedule. Arkansas had a bye this week, which means he didn’t have to prepare for a pre- or post-game show. It also made it easier to go to his station boss and ask for a few days off. He did, however, miss Arkansas’ SEC game last Saturday against Texas A&M, a game in which the Razorbacks blew a big lead and lost in overtime, 35-28.
Traveling with the Arkansas football and men’s basketball teams does have its perks. Last year, he went to the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week and played Kapalua six times. Arkansas native Bryce Molder helped get Schaap onto East Lake, in Atlanta, when the Razorbacks played at Auburn. He’s also played the TPC at Sawgrass when Arkansas has played at Florida.
He even spent time at last year’s Western Amateur at The Aloatian Club in Roland, Ark., where he and Jones interviewed many of the contestants, including 2013 USA Walker Cup competitor Cory Whitsett of the University of Alabama.
But nothing has whetted Schaap’s appetite for golf more than this week’s Men’s State Team Championship. He tried to qualify for the 2014 U.S. Open and 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur, to no avail. Now that he has experienced golf at this level, he’s driven to qualify for another, whether it’s the Men’s State Team or another USGA competition.
I love the game, he said. And after experiencing this, I am going to have a hard time going back to my wife and telling her I want to do this again. My goal was to make it [once] and ride off into the sunset and not worry about it and concentrate more on other stuff. I’m too competitive to not want to do it again. I’ll spend all of my time off playing golf if I can.
And be more than happy to chat about it the next day.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.