Sunday, September 23, 2018

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Tom Schmedake (’85) continues to support the university as an SDSU Alumni lifetime member. Tom Schmedake (’85) continues to support the university as an SDSU Alumni lifetime member.

A Few Feet from the Famous

SDSU alumnus Tom Schmedake combines volunteering with a passion for golf.
By Tobin Vaughn

Tom Schmedake (’85) loves golf. Besides his Escondido home and his job as a bid and proposal manager at Poway’s Kontron, an embedded computer company, he spends more time on a golf course than anywhere else.

Playing at least once a week, he has a 7.6 handicap. “I break 80 a couple times a month,” he says of a sport where a score of 90 is considered very good among amateurs.

Schmedake began golfing at the age of five and played competitively in high school.

“My dad golfed and all three of my brothers golfed,” Schmedake said. “It's a family thing.”

There is almost no place he would rather be than in the company of golfers, so it is no surprise that Schmedake is volunteering at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course where he has signed up for the sixth time to work at the tournament as a standard bearer.

"It's great,” he said. “I have a group of three pros I walk with and I carry a sign listing how many strokes above or below par the players are. I am with this group the entire time, walking with them and standing next to them on the tee. I am feet away from them during the tournament.”

The pros and the people

Depending on the players in his group, there’s a good chance Schmedake might appear on the tournament’s telecast. He once worked with a trio that included Tiger Woods, Jimmy Walker and 2015 Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup winner Jordan Spieth.

“Spieth gave me a ball he had signed and thanked me for volunteering,” Schmedake remembers.  But beyond the perks and proximity to some of the greatest names in golfing, he also enjoys the scene at the event.

“Even if you're not a golfer, it's amazing to watch the pros and the people,” he says. “You get the full gamut of what you'll get at any major sporting event; it's really the spectacle that makes it fun."

Aside from the personal enjoyment he receives from the tournament, the 56-year-old volunteer says he likes to help his community put its best foot forward during an event that attracts world-wide attention to San Diego. Similarly, he supports San Diego State University as an SDSU Alumni lifetime member.

A certain loyalty

As a student, Schmedake spent three years at another university before transferring to SDSU. He completed his engineering degree after only a year and a half on campus.

"I owe a lot to San Diego State,” he said. “I feel a certain loyalty to the university because I got my degree there and I actually learned probably as much at SDSU in a year and a half as I learned the entire time at (his previous school)."

Last year, Schmedake volunteered to judge a College of Engineering student research symposium. Although the event was different from his work at the Farmers Insurance Open, for the avid golfer it might have compared to the satisfaction of playing under par on an exceptionally difficult hole.

"It was phenomenal,” Schmedake said of the experience. “I judged a highly technical symposium and I still do engineering every day, so I enjoy listening to that kind of thing – very heady stuff including a lot of theory and a lot of calculation.

"I just liked listening to the papers. I liked seeing the students’ enthusiasm when they presented their work. They were all very good. It makes me feel very optimistic about the future."

Judging a symposium is something this alumnus says he would “definitely” do again. Like his commitment to the Farmer’s Insurance Open, he believes volunteering is a great way to combine an activity he enjoys with something he strongly supports.