Column: Casual player drives his way into annals of golf
Defying physical challenges, Tyler Schutz, before ever taking a formal lesson, scored two double eagles and a hole-in-one in 2022.
Michael Christensen, founder of the U.S.-based Double Eagle Club recognizing golfers who score three strokes under par on a single hole, is very familiar with the name of Tyler Schulz.
The North County resident, who turned 26 on Jan. 1, twice made the club’s elite list of amateur golfers who shot a double eagle last year — in February and again in November.
In between those two notable achievements, Schulz scored a hole-in-one at Torrey Pines South Golf Course on the 161-yard, par-3 eighth hole. In each case, he teed off from the white (middle) tees.
Christensen’s research recites the odds of shooting a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole (also called an albatross) as 1 million-to-1. That was the estimate of Dean Knuth, senior director of the USGA’s handicap division from 1981 to 1997. So, you can imagine the odds of shooting two in 10 months.
And the odds surely go up exponentially when you consider that Schutz has physical challenges. He was born with a congenital disorder called Kabuki syndrome which attacks the musculoskeletal system.
He is blind in one eye, has a dead spot in his good eye and is deaf in one ear, says his father and frequent golfing companion, Tom Schutz, of Del Mar. Tyler has undergone 18 surgeries over his 26 years, including having both kneecaps reconstructed, one as recently as September 2021.
In fact, Tyler wasn’t cleared by his surgeon to play golf again until last January — the month before he shot his first double eagle.
Tyler’s many physical challenges make his feats, witnessed by other unrelated golfers and recorded by the management of both courses, even more unusual.
“I believe Dean Knuth’s numbers, so I would guess that Tyler’s real odds, given his mono ocular condition, for his very rare accomplishment would be around 10 million to one,” estimates Christensen.
Tyler’s lucky streak started last Feb. 2 when he aced the second hole, a 221-yard par 4, at Lomas Santa Fe Executive Golf Course, where he plays a couple of times a month.
Jason Egnatz, manager of the course, says he wasn’t aware of any other player having done that at least seven or eight years prior to Tyler, although another player since has scored a double eagle.
“He is a really, really nice kid,” adds Egnatz, who signed a certificate verifying Tyler’s 220-yard shot.
Schutz hit his second double eagle on Nov. 30 on hole 7, also a par 4, of the Torrey Pines North Course. His drive was from 274 yards away, nearly the length of a football field, into a 4.25-inch hole.
Joe DeBock, Torrey Pines head golf pro, says players make a lot of hole-in-ones there “but a double eagle is a different story.” He remembers only one or two made by non-professional players in his nearly 35 years working there and recalls two by pro golfers.
PGA player Jason Gore scored a spectacular double eagle on the 18th hole of the south course in the 2016 Farmers Invitational golf tournament. David Edwards double eagled the same par-5 closing hole in 1987 when the tournament was known as the Andy Williams Open.
Tyler inherited a love for the game from his dad, Tom Schutz, who plays golf for enjoyment.
“He started hitting golf balls when he was really young,” his dad recalls. “Four to five years ago, I got him a set of Callaway clubs from Costco, and we would go out every couple of weeks and play somewhere.”
Tyler never had taken a formal golf lesson from a pro before shooting his two double eagles and hole-in-one last year.
Because of his son’s passion for the sport, his father gave him a five-lesson package with an instructor over the holidays, and Tyler since has had two sessions with Matthew Moomjian, who instructs at Pro Kids Golf Academy.
He doesn’t have an official handicap but, if he did, Tyler estimates it would be about 30 — which makes his achievement even more remarkable. “I normally shoot in the 90s,” he says.
“I don’t know what you’d attribute it to,” says Moomjian, other than the fact that Tyler lives and breathes golf and the stars aligned for him on those days. He acknowledges giving Tyler a tip here and there but nothing formal, describing the leftie as completely self-made with a very consistent and accurate swing.
So, what is Schutz’s secret?
He long has been athletic, having played some soccer and ice hockey for years. He also likes bowling and has scored two perfect games.
His father credits his son’s golf success, in part, to his hockey experience. Instead of completing a full back swing when he tees off, Tyler’s drive is more like a slap shot with a half-to-three-quarter back swing.
“I started playing hockey when I was 10, and played for eight to nine years,” Tyler says. “I try to go to a full swing in golf, but I just can’t seem to do it. ... I watch a lot of golf videos and figure out things that have helped.”
“He’s just young and flexible, and occasionally he just unleashes one,” theorizes his dad. Tyler says the wind was with him on his 276-yard drive because he normally hits a drive about 240 yards. Although he once slammed a 305-yard drive in Palm Springs.
All three aces were made using different clubs — a driver, 3-wood and 6-iron. Tyler now favors Taylor Made clubs. His favorite club is a 65-degree lob wedge.
Tyler’s parents didn’t realize when he was born that he had Kabuki syndrome, a condition with varying symptoms that is believed to occur in about one of 32,000 births.
First, at the suggestion of a physician friend, they had his eyes checked. They learned the optic nerve was missing from Tyler’s left eye and his right eye has limited visual acuity and lacks depth perception.
“We realized very shortly thereafter that he couldn’t hear out of his left ear,” his dad sayd. “Everything on his left side got hit pretty hard.”
Tyler’s kidneys were co-joined into the shape of a horseshoe, and he had cardiac issues. At the age of 4½ months, Tyler had to undergo potentially lethal surgery to remove a crimp in his aorta. Later there were surgeries on his feet to correct very high, painful arches.
More recently, both of his kneecaps detached at different times due to loose ligaments, a hallmark of the disease. Both required major reconstructive surgery.
“He’s 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighs about 130 pounds and is one of the nicest human beings you could ever meet,” says his dad, who is convinced Tyler has an angel sitting on his shoulder.
Tyler’s name appears on The Double Eagle Club website registry reflecting both his February and November triumphs.
“The interesting thing is his vision is such a challenge that he’s never seen any of his hole in ones,” says his father. When Tyler aced his 274-yard drive on Torrey Pines North, it was the guys on the next tee who started excitedly yelling, “Hey, it went in!”
Tyler, a 2016 Torrey Pines High School graduate and recently received a degree from San Diego City College in radio, TV and film, now works for Cox Communications in social media and video editing. His parents are divorced and he splits his time between his dad in Del Mar and his mom, Angelina Neglia, and stepdad, in Carmel Valley.
Another secret to his success is that they all stress the positive.
“We never tell Tyler he can’t do anything, and he doesn’t tell himself he can’t do anything either,” his dad says.
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