Plum freshman Shumaker breaks new ground

Plum's Samantha Shumaker hits a tee shot at the Rolling Fields Golf Course in Murrysville on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.
Plum's Samantha Shumaker hits a tee shot at the Rolling Fields Golf Course in Murrysville on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.
Photo by Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
| Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 12:07 a.m.

When it comes to golf, Plum freshman Sam Shumaker has cut her teeth on technology, and she's done so from the comforts of home.

In the winter, when snow keeps many junior players inactive, she is cozy in her garage, firing at pins and working the ball on an indoor golf simulator. Then she moves across the garage to her 13-by-22-foot putting green, elevated just enough to provide downhill, bending putts.

“I am practicing drills on there as much as I can,” said Shumaker, who plays on Plum's boys team because the school does not have a girls team. “It helps a lot in the winter. I don't lose my feel in the winter.”

Shumaker will put her polished skills to the test Monday when she debuts at the WPIAL Class AAA girls golf championship at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills. She shot 88 in the Section 3-AAA tournament to advance.

“I am proud of myself,” she said. “I am nervous about it. It's the first time I have qualified for a big event like this.”

Shumaker does not attend Plum: She is cyber-schooled and takes classes online. It's part of a lifestyle change that has altered her outlook on many things.

“I used to be a cheerleader,” she said. “But to be honest, I am glad I got rid of that and started playing golf. When I was in regular school, I was more worried about what others were doing than what I was doing. And my grades are better now than they were.”

Shumaker can't play all of her golf at home. She plays in the First Tee program out of Schenley Park as well as Western Pennsylvania Women's Golf Association events.

“She has been up and down,” coach Keith Nonnenberg said. “She's shot 61 (over nine holes), and she's shot 40. Mechanically, fundamentally, she's right there. She has a nice swing. And remember, you're talking about a 14-year-old girl.”

Shumaker has shot-making potential, as evidenced by one she made in the summer. During a junior tournament, she jarred a 175-yard double eagle on the par-5 fifth hole at Pittsburgh Field Club.

If she doesn't make a living playing golf one day, she could be cooking your dinner. She wants to attend culinary school.

“I want to cook; that's what I want to do with my career,” she said. “I love making desserts, especially cupcakes with my mom.”

As for blending in on a boys roster?

“I want my teammates to call me Samuel,” she said. “So, like my mom says, they won't feel so bad when I beat them.”

Freeport's Audrey Clawson is another local freshman who also competes on a boys team and will play in her first WPIAL final. Clawson, who will play in the Class AA tournament, said playing with the boys has improved her game. She has been one of the team's top scorers.

“I think if made me more competitive,” she said. “With (the boys), I know what I have to shoot to stay in varsity matches. You have to shoot this or that, or you're not advancing.”

A third local WPIAL qualifier, for the Class AAA tournament, is Fox Chapel senior Ashley Demoss. She placed 10th last season.

The top eight finishers advance to the PIAA Western Regional — the state championship qualifier — scheduled Oct. 15 at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or

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