DECATUR — Gabbi Schuerman’s Jeep is white.
“Just like a golf ball,” she said Wednesday, grinning through teeth that glistened like white golf tees.
Her license plate says, “GLFGIRL,” which describes her perfectly.
Among the stickers affixed to her vehicle are ones that say “St. Teresa Golf” (referencing her high school), “Rend Lake Golf” (where she played collegiately for two years), “Millikin” (where she currently plays college golf), “Titleist” and “Callaway.”
In her room are a collection of golf trophies, a prized golf ball signed by her one-time favorite LPGA player Michelle McGann and head covers from her treasured Scotty Cameron putters.
Her lock screen phone image is that of PGA golfer Ricky Fowler.
She follows Fowler and former LPGA great Annika Sorrenstam on Twitter. “Annika tweets about her kids and her golf school,” she reports.
“Golf,” the 22-year-old Decatur woman said matter-of-factly Wednesday, “is my life.”
Don’t try telling the 2010 St. Teresa High School graduate that her “life” is shallow or short-sighted. She’ll laugh openly because golf has been her passion since she first picked up a club at age three. It’s what she enjoys. It’s what she wants to do with her life. And if you ask her what she’ll be doing 60 years from now, she’ll give you a simple, honest, one-word answer.
“Golf,” she said, still grinning.
“I’ll never quit, ever,” she said from the Hickory Point Golf Course, where at 12:30 p.m., Friday she will tee it up as an amateur in the 144-player international field for the Decatur/Forsyth Classic women’s professional tournament. “Golf is a sport you can play your whole life.”
Schuerman landed in the field as one of two golfers who advanced from a Monday qualifier that opens the door for regional players. She shot 75 and joins Lauren Williams of Hillsboro and Eastern Illinois University, who shot 73.
It’s the second time Schuerman will have played in this tournament, having qualified as a 16-year-old high school freshman in 2007. Back then she was welcomed into the field free of charge. Now, however, she’s welcomed in after handing over a $500 entry fee, which she did, courtesy of her father, Eric, who will caddy for her this weekend.
Making it back among a pack of players who also have designs on a life in golf is a big deal to Schuerman, who dreams big even though at 5-foot-2 (“on a good day”) she stands out for looking rather small.
“I’ve been wanting to get back into this thing since I was a high school freshman,” she said. “I want to travel and play golf. My other dream is to be a Division I college golf coach. I’d like to get out of Illinois and get to Florida.”
Give Schuerman credit for this much: If finding employment in golf is her goal, she has immersed herself in job preparation.
She works three days a week for the Decatur Park District, shuttling golf carts and picking up the driving range at Scovill Golf Course. Twice a week she helps teach in Decatur’s junior golf program.
“I love the kids,” she said. “I like seeing them hit it far and getting all excited. We had 65-70 kids signed up this week and with the young ones, it’s basic stuff — head down, eyes on the ball, two hands on the club. With the older ones we get into specifics about the swing.”
She also has worked as a volunteer assistant coach for the St. Teresa girls golf team and has helped with the boys team as well.
When she isn’t playing for Millikin coach Marilyn Dechert, she’s majoring in sports management as part of her coaching curriculum.
Her lone summer school course is “Global Sports Issues,” taught by Don Luy, the former Millikin golf coach.
This summer she’ll also fit in time to defend her Decatur Women’s City Championship (she’s won it twice) and lead the women’s division of the Decatur Signature Cup team in its match play bout with Bloomington-Normal later this month.
And when she isn’t playing golf, teaching golf, studying golf or dreaming golf, what does Gabbi Schuerman do?
“I’m probably playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 on Playstation 3,” she said, still grinning.
It isn’t all laughs.
Schuerman’s diminutive frame can be a hindrance on the golf course because bigger, stronger players can blow past her off the tee.
“My upper body just isn’t as big,” she said with a sigh. “I have short arms. I don’t have as much strength.”
That said, she holds her own and relies on a sharp short game, which delivered for her Monday when she chipped in for a birdie on No. 18.
Schuerman’s closest friends are in her own family. She enjoys jousts with her younger sister, Jessica. And her parents, Eric and Dawn, are always close at hand.
Don Galka, her great-grandfather, won the Men’s City Championship in 1968 and her “uncle,” Chris Galka, won it in 1992. Throw in Gabbi’s city titles in 2010 and 2012 and there’s three generations from the same family that have their names etched on the city’s top trophies.
Oh, she has friends beyond blood relatives.
“I have one other best friend and she’s been my best friend since the first grade,” Schuerman said. “But she has a child, so she has a different responsibility.
“Golf,” Schuerman said, “is my child.”