Dan Mort connected with Schleicher better than any teammate ever had. The two seniors bonded over their last run as Lakers. Extra rounds at the Oswego Country Club before practice and weightlifting after became a habit for the duo. The pair held each other accountable and wanted to make sure their last year was as good as it could be. Mort said, this year Schleicher was “feeling it” and his swing looked “sharp”. Mort has always had respect for his fellow senior, but this year there was something different.
Most days there were four hours dedicated to golf and the bigger picture that surrounding it. All of this time was to improve performance for the fall season. A good fall season can send a message to the competition and set up favorable seeding going forward. It is expected that you maintain your training regimen throughout the year to carry you into the spring portion of the schedule. Schleicher did just that. While balancing academics with athletics Schleicher set himself up to be an academic All-American.
“Erik dedicated himself this year. He has always been a guy to put in extra work, but this time it was different. He was constantly getting me involved to help me get better with him. At first, he had to drag me out of the house and after a few weeks I was all in,” said Mort.
Mort was not the only one who noticed Schleicher’s renewed passion for the game that he had been playing his whole life. Kevin Schleicher, Erik’s dad saw the change in behavior on the course. Kevin Schleicher was the parent that every athlete dream of, full support and participation was the norm. A weekday commute across the state was never out of the question.
“I remember talking to another dad at a St John Fisher match during Erik’s freshman year. This guy was telling me how his kid was a senior and this was going to be the last time he ever got to see his boy play. This guy was torn up about it on the course as we are following the boys around watching them play. That day I knew I needed to see Erik play as many times as I could,” said Kevin Schleicher.
Missing only a handful of matches during Erik’s first three years, the proud father attended every match of what would end up being Erik’s farewell tour during the fall season. Kevin Schleicher made adjustments to his life and weekly routine to make sure he would be able to see Erik play.
“The first time I knew Erik was gearing up for a big senior season was when I noticed a change in his diet leading up to the fall half. More vegetables, less processed snack foods,” said Kevin Schleicher.
This year everything started to come together for Schleicher, the physique, the grades, and the results on the course. Schleicher found himself sitting at second in the conference, one stroke behind the lead heading into the spring. Since winning his first tournament ever at the Keuka Fall Invitational Schleicher couldn’t be stopped.
“This was the best I have ever seen him hit the ball. Erik struggled with consistency in the past, some rounds he would be playing well and others his swing would come and it would go. There was something about him at every match that impressed me more than the one before,” said Kevin Schleicher.
On March 10 the unthinkable happened. SUNY Oswego along followed the path of many other universities around the country and sent their students home for the remainder of the semester. Days later the NCAA decided they would halt athletics, and eventually cancel them indefinitely. There were many questions and concerns about this decision. None more pressing for Erik Schleicher than, “am I done?”, “is this how I go out?”, “did I play my last round of collegiate golf?”.
“When they finally called off our season, I was angry. I didn’t understand how they could just send us off like that. I would have liked to know that I was playing my last golf, I didn’t want it to be a surprise weeks later. Who wants to go out like that? I was playing the best golf of my life when it mattered the most,” said Erik Schleicher.
No amount of time will ever make things right for Schleicher and the thousands of other athletes around the United States. The NCAA granted Schleicher an extra semester of eligibility that he can redeem next year if he chooses to. After careful consideration and weighing the pros and cons, Schleicher has decided he will graduate this May and begin to reach out to employers to begin the next chapter of his life.
“My time is up and it sucks that it ended like that but that’s life. I loved my time playing for Oswego, but now it’s over. I talked to a few friends who helped me come to terms with it. I know guys who played football and they reminded me I should be grateful to be able to play my sport for the rest of my life. Those guys will never play football again. I genuinely believe I will be playing golf for the rest of my life,” said Erik Schleicher.
You are not going to meet an athlete humbler than Schleicher. He is not the type to come out and say that he would have finished first in the conference in a conversation of hypotheticals. Schleicher doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life debating the “what if” that will forever be surrounding the spring of 2020.
A new sense of confidence and swagger had emerged in Schleicher heading into the final part of his farewell tour. Rightfully so, the level of dedication to the grind during the lead up lets that come out of the best of us.
Teammates, coaches, friends, and family members alike all ask the same questions when they bring up the second half of a season that never was. Some form of “how do you think you would have done?”.
“One stroke behind the lead? We all know I was ready to go,” said Erik Schleicher
Schleicher will be heading to the green after he finishes his last final as a college student. After all, he needs to accomplish the goal he set for himself, to become an academic All-American. He is only .3 credits away and likes his chances of making it happen. The only difference between this time out and his last is that he isn’t chasing the conference championship, he needs to satisfy his golf habit. He is