Loyalty, giving back a big part of Schroeder's life
September 18, 2012
By Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
This article has been reposted courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
John Schroeder played a really nice front nine in his life.
The San Diegan made 300 starts on the PGA TOUR, got to compete with the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, and scored a win. Then he transitioned to television commentating before mounting an impressive comeback to golf with a 2001 victory on the Champions Tour.
In the midst of it all, a very savvy business play with the founders of Cobra Golf made Schroeder a rich man.
As impressive as that is, it could be said that Schroeder’s inward journey to the clubhouse has done more to define him.
On Oct. 13, Schroeder will be inducted into the San Diego Junior Golf Association’s Hall of Fame at a gala to celebrate the organization’s 60th anniversary. It is the SDJGA’s way of saying thank you for Schroeder’s dogged pursuit of funding for the non-profit at a time when public financial support has been hard to come by.
While Schroeder prepares that acceptance speech, he’s been working on another project that means a lot to him. His daughter, Patty, suffered a spinal-cord injury in her early 20s that left her a quadriplegic, and Schroeder has been a chief organizer in an inaugural charity golf tournament on Sept. 24 at the Morgan Run Club and Resort that will benefit the Freedom to Live Foundation.
Freedom to Live is a non-profit that provides affordable housing and other support for those who have suffered spinal-cord injuries. Co-hosting the golf event is former Ironman Triathlon world champion Greg Welch. Schroeder used his connections to get 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, now a Del Mar resident, and CBS commentator Gary McCord to participate.
“I think one of my strong points is that I’m a very loyal person,” Schroeder, 66, said. “And I appreciate what other people have done for me. To me, the overriding thing in my life is that I want to leave things better for the next generation than they were for me.”
The son of tennis great Ted Schroeder, John grew up in La Jolla and chose golf as his prime athletic pursuit, and it was San Diego Junior Golf that put him on the path to all that he would achieve.
Schroeder never forgot that, and when SDJGA was struggling in the early 2000s for funding, Schroeder stepped up to become one of its most active board members. The Del Mar resident pushed buttons in the community, was instrumental in helping to secure the 2008 U.S. Open through the Friends of Torrey Pines, and then convinced the members of that group to donate more than $320,000 to San Diego Junior Golf.
That money allowed SDJGA to keep golf affordable for its members, who receive about $40,000 per year in subsidies.
“We don’t say no to anybody,” said Megan Mahoney, SDJGA’s executive director. “John gets it. Obviously, he’s a product of junior golf and the game itself is important to him. He believes in the future of junior golf. And because we’re in his backyard, he wants to see a better tomorrow for golf and all of the growing that goes along with it.”
Schroeder has never been shy about going into a room and asking for what he wants.
“The guy’s got passion,” Mahoney said. ”There are some sleepless nights working in the non-profit world, so it’s just so great to have a guy like John Schroeder on your side. He can ruffle feathers from time to time, but he believes in it, and he’s going to get it done for you. I wish I had many John Schroeders.”
Schroeder has put the same effort into the Freedom to Live effort. He got involved after meeting Sian Welch, the former Ironman triathlete whose mother, Mary Williams, has worked for many years with people who have spinal cord injuries. They founded Freedom to Live this year and already have helped a handful of people, including one woman who had not ventured outside in the six years after her accident.
“They’re doing this on their own, out of the goodness of their heart,” Schroeder said. “I wanted to raise money and awareness for all of the good work they’re doing.”
In August of 1996, the oldest of Schroeder’s three daughters, Patty, had graduated from her dad’s alma mater, Michigan. She was at a party on a lake and dove off a dock at night into shallow water. She suffered a broken neck and became a quadriplegic.
“Life changes in an instant,” Schroeder said.
Patty spent months in a hospital in Michigan and was later transferred to San Diego for her rehabilitation. Though her injuries were devastating, Patty didn’t require a ventilator and she has the use of muscles in her wrists and thighs, which allows her to drive.
Now 38, Patty lives independently in Del Mar and is working on her doctorate in psychology. Her passion is working with women who have eating disorders.
“I think she’s pretty remarkable,” John Schroeder said.
Many would say the same thing about her dad.
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