Former rivals turn teammates

By Gus Bode

Sutzer, Gerlach to play for SIU women’s golf starting this fall Spt_golf_ps_7/16

They have been high school rivals. They have played the same summer golf tournaments. Now Samantha Sutzer and Kelly Gerlach are going to be SIU teammates.

Sutzer, a three-time Central State Eight Conference Golf Player of the Year at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, placed third in the Illinois state tournament in October. Gerlach has won The Southern Illinoisan Female Golfer of the Year award twice as a member of the Sparta High School team and finished in a tie for 17th place in the state finals.


The two have known each other for several years, and Gerlach was the person that introduced Sutzer to SIU head coach Diane Daugherty.

“[Daugherty’s] great,” Sutzer said. “She has a lot of experience and I trust her. I’m looking forward to working with her on my game.”

Sutzer committed to SIU after touring Illinois State, Northern Illinois and Bradley. She is undecided on her major but is thinking about pursuing a career in education in hopes of becoming a teacher.

After walking around SIU, Sutzer liked what she saw and signed a letter of intent last November.

“I looked at a couple of other schools, and I liked SIU best,” Sutzer said. “They have what I was looking for education-wise.”

Sutzer’s career began when her father, Jim, a 12-year golf pro at Lincoln Greens Golf Course in Springfield, bought his daughter her first golf clubs at age 2.

Sutzer continued to practice with her father as he gave lessons to other players.


“Ever since I was 7, I’d get up in the morning and go golf with my dad until he got done for the day,” Sutzer said.

Sutzer’s sister, 15-year-old Kassandra, has also recently picked up the game and is now playing as a sophomore with Sacred Heart-Griffin. Kassandra has been playing golf seriously for only three years.

No matter what she chooses to do after her SIU career is over, Sutzer wants to keep golf as a part of her life.

“I won’t rule out going touring [with the LPGA] someday,” Sutzer said.

As for her new teammate Gerlach, Sutzer is glad she is part of the team and is looking forward to playing with her.

“We get along well. It’s interesting that I know someone coming in to play for SIU,” Sutzer said. “She’s pretty good; I think she’ll succeed at SIU.”

The choice to become a Saluki was easier for Gerlach, considering both of her parents attended the University.

The family tradition has influenced Gerlach her entire life, but the choice to attend SIU or the University of Illinois was more difficult than she had originally anticipated.

“I had some real good offers. The decision was harder than I thought,” Gerlach said. “My parents didn’t pressure me [to attend SIU], but it was highly suggested.”

Gerlach is the only member of her family that plays golf, with volleyball being more of the family sport.

As a player, Gerlach considers herself similar to PGA ace Fred Couples, who is known for being relaxed and confident on the golf course.

But Gerlach wants to make a name for herself and develop her own style of golf.

“I try to play my own game,” Gerlach said. “I don’t want to model myself after any other player.”

Gerlach has decided on a political science major and was once a part of Illinois General Assembly Representative Dan Reitz’s administration.

Despite her political aspirations, Gerlach has no interest in running for a government office.

“I don’t want to run for government, but my dream job is to work for an agency as a lobbyist,” Gerlach said.

What Gerlach does want to run for is a position atop the leaderboard at the Missouri Valley Conference Championship, which will be played in Carbondale.

“I’m really excited to be able to play the championship on our home course my freshman year,” Gerlach said. “I want to bring the championship back to Southern.”

Another player who could help her accomplish that feat is Sutzer, who Gerlach has played several summer tournaments with, including the Central Illinois Amateur and Illinois State Amateur golf championships.

“Me and Sam are real good friends,” Gerlach said. “We’ve played the same summer tournaments, and we’re real similar in personality.”

She names her strong work ethic as one of the things that’s special about her as well as her tendency to overwork herself and get burned out.

Gerlach is also well aware of pressure on her to carry her high school success to the college level.

“I do feel that pressure,” Gerlach said. “If I work hard and do my best, I think I will achieve enough to live up to everyone’s expectations.”

Reporter Pete Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game’s over. I’m outta here.Spitler can be reached at [email protected]