Annual golf tournament honors YSU legend
BOARDMAN — Looking out from her golf cart, Roseann Schwartz sees golfers from 13 different colleges, all taking their best shot on Mill Creek’s north course, representing their universities with pride Tuesday afternoon.
The sport of women’s golf has come quite a way in the last two decades. More females are getting involved in the sport at a younger age and a majority of NCAA universities are sponsoring the sport.
It’s a different feel then when Schwartz was hired by Youngstown State’s then athletic-director Jim Tressel in 1996 to helm a new women’s golf program, and a far cry from her earliest playing days at Youngstown East.
The 83-year-old feels the special bond with golf, along with spending 30 years as a teacher, and 17 seasons at the Penguins head coach.
It all started at the age of 13 when she played for Youngstown East’s boy’s golf team as the lone female in the mid-1950s because there wasn’t a team for girls.
“They had matches in those days, it wasn’t like you went out every time for a team score,” Schwartz recalled. “So we played matches, and I always won, and I would think, ‘Oh my god, do you think these guys don’t know how to play against a girl?’ All of this is running through my mind.
“My senior year, we got a message that one of the schools complained, so I was no longer allowed to be on the boy’s golf team. I was fine with that because I was a majorette, everything interfered with practice anyway. But, it was hard to get started because you wouldn’t have enough girls to have a golf team in high schools.”
At the cost of $50 a summer, Schwartz’s father made sure she had a membership to Mill Creek growing up.
“What they do out at Mill Creek is amazing, they’re always running something for the kids,” Schwartz said. “I also played up at the (Henry Stambaugh Municipal Golf Course), and it was a good situation because when my dad couldn’t take me, he expected me to do this, and I did it. I took a bus downtown underneath the clock to get the Elm Street bus, to go up to the Muni, carrying my little red nylon bag.
“So, everybody that probably excels or does well, it’s because of something extra they did, it doesn’t just happen. It’s all about getting mentally ready for everything that you do.”
When the Penguins began play in 1996, Akron or Kent didn’t field women’s teams. Schwartz was driving a rickety YSU school bus to tournaments and there wasn’t a WATTS to train inside when courses weren’t available. Describing travel in the early days as a chore, with the age-old question of “How are we going to get there?”was exciting at the same time for Schwartz.
Of course, anytime a sport is played in the spring, weather peaks its head out too.
“We had a girl from Florida that came up to play, and we played in Bowling Green, and it started snowing,” Schwartz recalled. “She’d never been in the snow. It was a shock, she started crying. She said ‘I can’t play in the snow,’ and I said oh yeah you can, you’re going to love it.
“I’d run back and forth bringing them hot chocolate and bringing it over to them and said ‘You’re going to like this, drink your hot chocolate and you can get going again.’ I was feeling sorry for them, I would not say I’m glad it’s not me, but you would think it sometimes, you know.”
The Roseann Schwartz Invitational has been a mainstay for the Penguins for a majority of their existence, at one time taking place at Avalon Golf and Country Club. Youngstown State placed second following the conclusion of the two-day tournament this week with a score of 598, the fifth-lowest 36-hole score in program history. Akron won the event with a team score of 590.
With many stories still to be told, Schwartz retired following the 2013 season following a 17-year run and a pair of Horizon League titles. She also built the foundation for current head coach Nate Miklos.
“Just the impact her and (her husband) Dick have had on golf in the community, she did such an incredible job building our program,” Miklos said. “It’s a privilege to be able to continue to host this tournament, and honor her.
“It gives all of our players such a great opportunity to go out and compete at our home. We’ve been pretty successful with this tournament over the years, and it just gives us the opportunity to build some momentum going into the rest of our fall season.”
There’s a trio of local products on the team, featuring seniors Jenna Vivo (Boardman), Britney Jonda (Boardman), and freshman Kelly Hutton (Salem).
Vivo, who carded a 167 to tie for 60th in the event, had one word to describe Schwartz with.
“She really helps out some of my teammates a lot, and she’s always there if we need her,” Vivo said. “She’s a legend around here, so it’s awesome.
“It’s nice that it resonates with me and my teammate Britney, we’ve been playing here our whole lives, we played high school and junior golf here, so it’s nice to have someone to talk to about, because Mill Creek is a staple course for my life. So it’s awesome to have this tournament here where she’s been around this course forever.”