Mike Schroder, a Grand Strand golf instruction icon, died Sunday at the age of 66.
Schroder had been an instructor in the area since 1981 and was the Strand’s preeminent junior golf teacher.
He spearheaded the area’s domination of junior golf in South Carolina for more than a decade, as what nearly all of the Strand’s best juniors from 1990-2002 had in common was Schroder as their instructor.
“Mike was a wonderful man and the reason I chose to follow my dream of playing on the LPGA,” LPGA Tour member and Conway native Kristy McPherson said. “As a kid, Mike was my first-ever instructor. As an adult, I turned back to Mike to help me get my full LPGA card back. I will forever be grateful for his instruction and confidence in me.”
Schroder, an Aiken native, played golf at LSU and later on the PGA Tour, and was named the 1996 Carolinas PGA Section Teacher of the Year and one of the top teachers in North America by Golf Magazine in 2001.
Schroder appeared as a guest instructor on Golf Channel’s “Academy Live” with then-host Kelly Tilghman, a former pupil who played at Duke.
His other pupils included Conway’s Justin Roof, who was ranked the No. 2 junior in the nation behind Tiger Woods in 1993 before attending Wake Forest on the Arnold Palmer scholarship, and Myrtle Beach’s Jimmy Flippen, who was No. 4 behind Woods and attended Virginia.
Conway’s Curt Sanders played at Ohio State from 1990-94, Galivants Ferry native Michael Maness was the 1997 South Carolina Boys Junior Golfer of the Year who played at the University of South Carolina, and Florence’s Gregg Jones starred at Clemson.
Schroder had a run of top girls golfer in the state for five of six years from 1995-2000 in Conway’s Kari Damron, Galivants Ferry’s Dallas Ambrose, McPherson and Myrtle Beach’s Lorraine Ballerano. Damron played at Purdue, Ambrose and McPherson at South Carolina, and Ballerano at N.C. State.
“Words don’t describe what Mike did for me as a kid,” said Zack Byrd, a former All-American at Coastal Carolina and Web.com Tour member. “He grew my love for the game of golf weekly and is the reason I wanted to pursue golf full time. We spent countless hours together working on my golf game and just talking about sports, life, and who knows what else. The game lost a great swing coach and person.”
Schroder often charged a pittance of his regular teaching rate for juniors, telling The Sun News in 2013: “You have to have sincere passion for people, and sometimes it’s more of a money issue than whether you’re trying to help a young person. They set these things up where it’s a ton of money to go to. I used to basically give it away, and there aren’t a lot of people willing to do that.”
Maness said Schroder was always accessible to the juniors he taught. “He grew my golf game into whatever it ever was,” Maness said. “He just always made himself available to me. He was a big part of my life growing up.”
Schroder also gained a level of international fame as the host for more than two decades of the Strand-based 30-minute syndicated golf instruction and location television show “Links Illustrated,” which grew to air on stations and satellite systems reaching an estimated 60 million homes through the late 2000s.
He worked on the show with producer John Erlenbach until Erlenbach’s death from cancer at the age of 52 in 2010.
Schroder began battling esophageal cancer in 2013, when a malignant tumor at the base of his esophagus near the attachment to his stomach was discovered. But he had returned to teaching and was working at the Steve Dresser Golf Academy in Pawleys Island and part time at Wild Wing Plantation as recently as last month.
The Myrtle Beach golf industry rallied for Schroder, holding a benefit tournament to assist him with his medical expenses in January 2014 at True Blue Golf Club.
He was undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Schroder’s funeral service will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 at St. James Catholic Church in Conway.