Schroder was top junior golf in­struc­tor in Myr­tle Beach

The Sun News - - Sports - BY ALAN BLONDIN [email protected]­sun­news.com

Mike Schroder, a Grand Strand golf in­struc­tion icon, died Sun­day at the age of 66.

Schroder had been an in­struc­tor in the area since 1981 and was the Strand’s pre­em­i­nent junior golf teacher.

He spear­headed the area’s dom­i­na­tion of junior golf in South Carolina for more than a decade, as what nearly all of the Strand’s best ju­niors in 19902002 had in com­mon was Schroder as their in­struc­tor.

“Mike was a won­der­ful man and the rea­son I chose to fol­low my dream of play­ing on the LPGA,” LPGA Tour mem­ber and Con­way na­tive Kristy McPherson said. “As a kid, Mike was my first-ever in­struc­tor. As an adult, I turned back to Mike to help me get my full LPGA card back. I will for­ever be grate­ful for his in­struc­tion and con­fi­dence in me.”

Schroder, an Aiken na­tive, played golf at LSU and later on the PGA Tour, and was named the 1996 Caroli­nas PGA Sec­tion Teacher of the Year and one of the top teach­ers in North Amer­ica by Golf Mag­a­zine in 2001.

Schroder ap­peared as a guest in­struc­tor on Golf Chan­nel’s “Acad­emy Live” with then-host Kelly Til­gh­man, a for­mer pupil who played at Duke.

His other pupils in­cluded Con­way’s Justin Roof, who was ranked the No. 2 junior in the na­tion be­hind Tiger Woods in 1993 be­fore at­tend­ing Wake For­est on the Arnold Palmer schol­ar­ship, and Myr­tle Beach’s Jimmy Flip­pen, who was No. 4 be­hind Woods and at­tended Vir­ginia.

Con­way’s Curt San­ders played at Ohio State in 1990-94, Gali­vants Ferry na­tive Michael Maness was the 1997 South Carolina Boys Junior Golfer of the Year who played col­le­giately at South Carolina, and Florence’s Gregg Jones starred at Clem­son. Schroder had a run of top girls golfers in the state for five of six years from 1995 to 2000 in Con­way’s Kari Dam­ron, Gali­vants Ferry’s Dal­las Am­brose, McPherson and Myr­tle Beach’s Lor­raine Baller­ano. Dam­ron played at Pur­due, Am­brose and McPherson at South Carolina and Baller­ano at N.C. State.

“Words don’t de­scribe what Mike did for me as a kid,” said Zack Byrd, a for­mer All-Amer­i­can at Coastal Carolina and Web.com Tour mem­ber. “He grew my love for the game of golf weekly and is the rea­son I wanted to pur­sue golf full time. We spent count­less hours to­gether work­ing on my golf game and just talk­ing about sports, life, and who knows what else. The game lost a great swing coach and per­son.”

Schroder of­ten charged a pit­tance of his reg­u­lar teach­ing rate for ju­niors, telling The Sun News in 2013: “You have to have sin­cere pas­sion for peo­ple, and some­times it’s more of a money is­sue than whether you’re try­ing to help a young per­son. They set these things up where it’s a ton of money to go to. I used to ba­si­cally give it away, and there aren’t a lot of peo­ple will­ing to do that.”

Maness said Schroder al­ways was ac­ces­si­ble to the ju­niors he taught. “He grew my golf game into what­ever it ever was,” Maness said. “He just al­ways made him­self avail­able to me. He was a big part of my life grow­ing up.”

Schroder also gained a level of in­ter­na­tional fame as the host for more than two decades of the Strand­based 30-minute syn­di­cated golf in­struc­tion and lo­ca­tion tele­vi­sion show “Links Il­lus­trated,” which grew to air on sta­tions and satel­lite sys­tems reach­ing an es­ti­mated 60 mil­lion homes through the late 2000s.

He worked on the show with pro­ducer John Er­len­bach un­til Er­len­bach’s death from cancer at the age of 52 in 2010.

Schroder be­gan bat­tling esophageal cancer in 2013, when a ma­lig­nant tu­mor at the base of his esoph­a­gus near the at­tach­ment to his stom­ach was dis­cov­ered. But he had re­turned to teach­ing and was work­ing at the Steve Dresser Golf Acad­emy in Paw­leys Is­land and part time at Wild Wing Plan­ta­tion as re­cently as last month.

The Myr­tle Beach golf in­dus­try ral­lied for Schroder, hold­ing a ben­e­fit tour­na­ment to as­sist him with his med­i­cal ex­penses in Jan­uary 2014 at True Blue Golf Club.

He was un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy treat­ment.

Schroder’s fu­neral ser­vice will be held at 4 p.m. next Fri­day at St. James Catholic Church in Con­way.

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