Assistant Golf Professional By Day… Special Olympics Basketball Coach By Night

Troon Golf is fortunate enough to have thousands of employees who do their jobs with passion and professionalism. Then there is Paul Schmeling, who meets those criterion and adds yet another treasured trait to the Troon demographic.

“I guess you could say I’ve been given the gift of patience,” said the 35-year-old assistant pro at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale.

Paul Schmeling - Troon Golf“I love working at Troon and in the golf industry, but working with kids has always been an important part of my life. I guess that’s because my mother was a special education teacher and my father is a Pediatric surgeon, and helping people just kind of rubbed off on me. And while golf is what I do, coaching is what I want to do more of in the future.”

That’s why by day you will find Schmeling at Troon Golf’s flagship property, helping guests and members have the time of their golfing lives. But when night falls, Schmeling moonlights as a Special Olympics basketball coach, a job that brings him purpose and payback.

According to his boss, Troon North general manager Mitch Harrell, Schmeling does both jobs incredibly well.

“Paul is always upbeat and strives to make people happy whatever he does,” Harrell observed. “He is finishing up his schooling at ASU, works full-time, and also volunteers for Special Olympics.

“Our members and guests love his enthusiasm and dedication, and I’m sure that the kids do, too. He just makes people feel good.”

Like last summer, when Schmeling guides his Scottsdale Bobcats to a second straight state unified basketball title and a berth in the 2014 Special Olympics national summer games in New Jersey.

“The competition is a lot more intense than people know,” said Schmeling, explaining that he coaches kids who are “high functioning” and who love being part of a competitive team.

According to Schmeling, he serves as the facilitator on the court, meaning he not only coaches the team but he also plays on it as a unified partner player, passing the ball and setting up plays for the Special Olympians. And while Schmeling never shoots, he is allowed to defend and steal the ball from coaches on the other team.

“Basketball — not golf — was my sport; my first love,” said Schmeling, who grew up in Minnesota and learned to play golf through his grandfather and immediate family (he is the oldest of four children) at courses like Crow River Country Club in Hutchinson and Minnetonka Country Club in Excelsior.

“So coaching it [basketball] came naturally for me, and having compassion for kids, I just turned it all into something that’s really been exciting. And then not long ago I went back to school, and that was a big challenge, too, although I’m close to getting my four-year degree in recreation management.”

It’s a heavy load, but nothing seems too big of a task for Schmeling, a bachelor who started in outside service at Troon North and steadily has worked his way up through the ranks over the last four and a half years.

These days, Schmeling is a man on a mission even if he’s not sure where it’s all going to end up – on the course or on the court.

“I’ve never really been a school guy [academic], but I’m strong willed enough to get a four-year degree,” he said with obvious pride. “I’d like to take that and do something a little more with it, like coach kids to play golf or basketball.

“I’m really very passionate about coaching [Special Olympians], but I’d also like to stay with Troon. So no matter what I do in the future, I want to help somebody somewhere to get better. I guess if I could pick my job it would be coaching special needs kids as well as typical kids at a private golf club run by Troon. It might seem like a reach, but what we’ve found is that when you have an inclusive program, the kids learn from one another just as much as they do a coach or instructor.”

Humble, happy and driven, Schmeling gives a lot of the credit for his harmonious state of being to his current mentor, Harrell.

“I can’t say enough about Mitch. He’s been my role model,” Schmeling pointed out. “Outside my grandfather and my parents, no one has done more for me in regards to helping me grow as a person than Mitch.

“He has gone above and beyond, and that really keeps me positive while I’m grinding to get my degree. It’s basically why I’m with Troon Golf, because I admire its management philosophy of being the best, and I love the people I get to work with because they ARE the best.”

Yes, Troon guys like Paul Schmeling.

By BILL HUFFMAN

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