CONOVER, N.C. -- Michele Schambs wanted to get in a quick game of racquetball with a couple of her Findlay teammates, that’s all. What could it possibly hurt?
A half-hour remained before golf practice in late February, and there were still a couple of weeks to go until the Oilers’ first tournament this year. There was nothing much to it really, just a friendly game.
Still, points are points and at one point when Schambs went after a ball, she tried to plant her left foot. She landed wrong and heard the worst sound she could’ve possibly heard.Pop.
She thought maybe she’d just stubbed her toe, so she hobbled away from the room thinking it might not be so bad after all. There was no such luck. The foot was broken, and with golf season fast approaching, the implications were all too real.
“I was crying,” Schambs said. “I told my coach, and his face just fell. I was worried that I probably wouldn’t play this season. I was just disappointed and sad. It was just terrible. I was so mad at myself.”
As soon as she could, she ditched her walking boot. She did stretches, and when her foot got sore, she would ice it twice a day. Although she went ahead and played in the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational in Winter Springs, Florida, she finished a distant 50th in the field and 30 strokes off the lead. Schambs then sat out a couple of tournaments -- the NCAA DII Spring Fling in Perry Park, Kentucky and the Ohio Dominican Invitational in Columbus -- and that hurt as much as the injury itself.
Returning April 13-14 at the Walsh Invitational in Canton, Ohio, she made her comeback a triumphant one. Schambs fired a two-round score of 153, tying her for first with Walsh’s Jenny Tsangeos and Ashley Swanson of Ferris State. With a par on the first playoff hole and bogeys by Tsangeos and Swanson, the victory was sealed for Schambs.
It was good enough to help Findlay finish second behind tournament winner Grand Valley State.
“To tell you the truth, I was in awe during the playoff,” Schambs admitted. “I just stood there and was like, ‘I just won my first tournament … oh my gosh.’ I wasn’t thinking about my foot or anything, and then I just went to play. I was just happy that I was allowed to play.”
Playing with pain is a fact of life for many athletes, and that’s certainly been the case for Schambs this year. Her injury did not magically go away when she won in Canton, and it didn’t go away throughout the GLIAC championships or the East Super Regional.
The injury was still there Wednesday, when she shot a 1-over-par 72 to lead Findlay to sixth place after the first day of the NCAA Division II women’s golf national championships here at the Rock Barn Golf and Spa. Still, ask her about how difficult it is to play on a broken foot that’s in the process of healing, and she’ll downplay the whole thing.
“There really isn’t that much difficulty just walking on it,” Schambs said. “In the first tournament, I was more cautious about where I was walking and placing my foot. I still have to do that. There are some places that I’ll put my foot and it’ll hurt, but most of the time, I’m okay with just walking. It really didn’t affect my swing or anything.”
It hasn’t been easy coping with an injury like hers, and Schambs is quick to point out that her recovery has been a true team effort. Findlay’s director of golf Dominic Guarnieri and her teammates have had her back throughout the process, and she’s thankful for that.
“I probably wouldn’t have been able to get back as soon as I was able to without the support of my teammates and my coach,” Schambs admitted. “They were there through everything, helping out with rides. There’s been such a support system that’s helpful.
“They would take me to class and take me home. Because I live off campus, I wasn’t able to drive to class. They took me to practice. Even though at the beginning part of this thing I wasn’t able to practice, I still wanted to go and be there for the team. I’d be there for workouts and practice. They made sure I wasn’t on my foot all the time and gave support.”