Christmas 21—For three years, Hailey Schalk became synonymous with excellence in Colorado high school golf. It would have been four if COVID didn’t steal her senior season away from her.
Throughout her time at Holy Family, Schalk didn’t just rise above the rest of the competition in the state. She dominated it. In 2017, she ended her freshman year with the lowest score ever for a female golfer, shooting a 7-under-par 65 for her first of three state championships.
The two that followed were a breeze.
All the while, Schalk honed her game at the Colorado National Golf Club, where her father serves as the director of golf. She grew up around the University of Colorado women’s team, which practices out of the facility, as she worked to cement herself as one of the best female high school golfers in the state’s history.
That made CU, where she eventually moved on to, feel like home.
“I loved high school golf,” Schalk said. “I thought it was really fun and it was a really good test for me to compete for a state title every year. I think that by proving that I could win, and I did win three years in a row, was huge for me because it proved to me that I can compete under pressure and I can compete at a higher level. Pressure is a huge part of golf.”
That pressure has come to define Schalk’s first three years at CU, which provided no shortage of adversity. Thanks to the still-raging pandemic, Schalk missed out on the first half of her freshman year, leaving only the spring season to help her acclimate to collegiate play.
The brief season set her up nicely for an illustrious sophomore year, during which she led the Buffs in overall rounds (35), stroke average (74.71) and score in relation to par average (+2.71). She served as her team’s top golfer for the final five tournaments of the season, including four top-20 finishes, all while recording a team-best 87 birdies and 378 pars.
“I found a key in my swing at the time, or something that really made sense to me in my swing, where I could bring that to the golf course and know where the ball was going to go and where it was going to miss it and kind of eliminate one side of the golf course,” Schalk explained.
“That makes it a lot easier when you know kind of where the ball is going to eventually end up every time. I think that really boosted my confidence, knowing I can aim over here and I know it’s going to finish on this side of the golf course, regardless of if it’s on the green or not, or the fairway or not.”
Schalk’s elevated style of play gave her all the confidence she needed to soar through her second season, but her third brought more challenges than she expected. She saw her physical game struggle a bit as a junior, which in turn led to a decline in her mental game.
In the months since, Schalk has taken a bit of a step back, playing in a few events and working with a new coach. She hopes the slower summer schedule will help give her a fresh perspective for her senior year at CU.
“She’s a fighter. She always has been,” CU head coach Anne Kelly said. “Golf is like that. You experience ups and downs, and the best players always seem to find a way to work through them. I’m really hopeful that she’s going to make this senior year her best and keep fighting and play some great golf.”