BROOMFIELD — The funny thing is, Hailey Schalk didn't really like golf as a young child.
Her father and now high school coach at Holy Family, Matt Schalk, was a huge golfer so Hailey Schalk was exposed to the sport and started playing at a young age. But she mostly just got a kick out of hitting her ball into the lake after practice every day. She just liked to watch the splashes.
Her father had to bribe her with Starbucks frappuccinos before each tournament to get her to start competing at age 10, and Hailey Schalk would get such nerves before every tournament that her stomach would ache and she would beg to go home. Before a tournament in Denver when she was 11 years old, Matt Schalk told Hailey that she could throw up in the bushes or on the first tee, but she wasn't going to quit and they weren't going home. She made it through that day without getting sick and now Hailey Schalk can't imagine what she would do without golf.
"My first couple tournaments, I would just get really nervous and I would get a really bad stomach aches," Hailey Schalk said. "Once I got used to playing lots of tournaments, I realized that you're going to be nervous on the first tee no matter what. I started to accept that whatever happens, happens and that I should just go play."
Had her father not pushed Schalk to overcome those nerves, she would not have gone on to take Colorado's prep golf scene by the reigns as just a freshman last season.
In 2017, Schalk won the first-ever Class 3A state championship by seven strokes over the closest golfer with a 3-under, two-round score of 139 at Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield. She won every other tournament she entered that season, for that matter, and had an overall scoring average of 70.70.
That was just the start of Schalk's epic first-year run.
Since winning her Colorado state title and setting herself up to potentially become Colorado's first ever four-time champion, Schalk finished runner-up in the Nike Junior Invite at Vanderbilt and won both Colorado major championships she played in — the Colorado Junior PGA Championship and the Junior Golf Alliance Tour Championship. Schalk was named BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year and Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado Player of the Year. The sophomore will receive the Future Famer award from the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame this spring and next week Schalk will be awarded the Outstanding High School Achievement by Sportswomen of Colorado, joining a list that include Michaela Shiffrin, Missy Franklin and other noteworthy athletes who have received that honor.
So having already accomplished all of that, what does Schalk have planned for an encore this spring?
"I think I'm going to approach it pretty much the same way as last year," Schalk said. "I'll just keep practicing and bonding with our team. My main goal is just to improve my game throughout the season. I played in some bigger tournaments this year and whenever I have success, it just gives me confidence and motivates me to keep getting better."
Schalk may be the only one already receiving regular mail from college programs, but the entire Tigers team has a lot to live up to this season as well. After a several-year hiatus, Holy Family High School added girls golf back to its varsity lineup in 2017 and in just the team's first year back in the mix, finished second in the 3A team scoring with two freshmen and a junior.
The Tigers did lose Megan Vogt, who transferred to Broomfield after placing seventh in 3A last season. But senior Heather Stauter, who placed 21st in 2017, is back and Matt Schalk and co-coach Perry Holmes feel confident in the program's ability to keep its momentum going strong.
"We are very excited about the team as we have 11 players out for it," Matt Schalk said. "For Perry Holmes and myself, it's a win when we can see so many girls interested in the game. We had a tremendous season last year which was the best in school history. We are excited about this year, and our goals starting out are to win our league and then qualify for state."
It's funny how Hailey Schalk's already impressive golf career began with the simple joy of splashing golf balls into a lake to distract herself from practice. Now seeing a splash where her ball lands is high on the list of things she hates most.
Lucky for Schalk, that doesn't happen very often anymore unless she's feeling nostalgic.