Jake Schroeckenthaler can hit a golf ball a long way. As a skilled and powerful basketball player checking in at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, that shouldn’t surprise anybody.
So while the Monona Grove senior almost always towers over his opponents while driving the ball right by them on the golf course, it’s the other parts of his game that sometimes need more attention.
“When we’re on the range at The Oaks (MG’s home course), there’s a road that’s probably over 300 yards, maybe 325 or 350 away, and he’s trying to hit the road,” MG coach Dan Zweifel said. “But we’re trying to get him 20 yards away, over to the putting green.”
Schroeckenthaler’s rise to the top to the state’s prep golf world has been a steady one. He missed qualifying for the WIAA state tournament as a freshman, but finished 13th as a sophomore and fourth as a junior last year, five shots off the winning pace of Arrowhead’s Piercen Hunt. He also led MG to its first team trip to state in nearly 30 years.
With two other players returning from that team in Anthony Koch and Brad Edmontson, the Silver Eagles have hopes of making the trip two years in a row. And Schroeckenthaler clearly has the individual championship in his sights as well.
“It was something that hadn’t been done at our school in a while, and we were able to do it,” Schroeckenthaler said of the team trip. “I feel we have the caliber to do it again.”
Hitting the long ball has never been an issue for Schroeckenthaler, whom Zweifel said routinely bombs drives longer than 300 yards. But as Zweifel reiterated, improving other areas of his game is where Schroeckenthaler is working to take the next step.
“What you see is the natural progression from freshman year to his senior year is his confidence,” Zweifel said. “I think as a young kid, he was always able to hit the ball pretty well. Now he’s one of those older guys and I think has confidence with the shot, and is starting to have a better game plan than just getting out there and hitting it as far as he can.
“He studies the courses (and) knows where he wants to hit the ball before he tees off. That’s been the biggest progression — how to prepare for a round and see the course before you get out there. If he makes putts, he can shoot 70 or below.”
Schroeckenthaler knows the short game is where he needs the most work. During spring trips to Alabama and Florida to play golf while many state players are waiting out the inclement weather and a late-season snowstorm to pull the clubs out, he was working on that aspect of his game in warmer climes.
“I’m hitting off grass and hitting into fairways and not at a heated range or something like that,” Schroeckenthaler said of playing down South. “I’m finding weak links in my game. My short game is not very good at all, and I cannot putt very well right now.
“But looking at all the work I’ve done in the offseason, the swing’s looking pretty good. There are a couple of things to work on, but you always have to work on something.”
Schroeckenthaler recently finished a successful basketball season for the Silver Eagles (24-2), who advanced to a Division 2 sectional final before losing to Westosha Central. He was the Badger South Conference Player of the Year, averaging 19.7 points a game, and was named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association’s Division 2 All-State team.
His ability in golf and basketball provided Schroeckenthaler opportunities to play both sports in college. He received mostly NCAA Division III looks in basketball, but has drawn D1 and D2 interest in golf, which he intends to pursue at the next level and expects to choose his school later in the golf season.
A natural post player, Schroeckenthaler — surprisingly — is considered too short to be a D2 prospect in basketball.
“If he were about two inches taller, a lot of Division II teams would like him,” said Zweifel, who is also MG’s boys basketball coach. “He’s an old-school, back to the basket guy, but just a bit undersized for a DII guy.”
But there is plenty of room for big guys in the golf world, as Zweifel points out. For comparison, he mentions one multiple-major winner, South African Ernie Els, as someone who succeeds at his size hitting golf balls for a living.
“Els is a big guy, 6-5, 6-6,” Zweifel said. “You don’t see a lot of those types of guys to get all of that leverage moving at the same time. Jake was a guy I taught in junior league at Door Creek, and I can remember in the second or third grade, he was able to hit the ball further than seventh- and eighth-graders.
“He started early going to PGA Junior events and got some experience, and his parents have been able to take him places and be successful. He’s run with that and done a really good job.”