Star prep golfer finds home in Michigan State and rekindles love of game
MSU senior Stephanie Schick’s golf game brought her accolades, but also to the brink of her health. She now is back on the course, competing as the only woman on the MSU club golf team.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – It’s the game she started playing when she was five years old, but the passion and drive to play competitively began to consume her in high school.
The game she loved so much was the one that nearly killed her.
Stephanie Schick was one of Saline High School’s star golfers in 2017. She was knee-deep in the recruiting process, ready to play at the next level, until her world started to unravel.
“My parents would be like, you know you look really thin, you don’t seem like you’re eating, and it just got significantly worse from there,” said Schick. “My parents would pack me lunches, and I would just throw them away.”
She was diagnosed with anorexia at the beginning of her senior year, the culmination of things turning for the worse nearing the end of her junior year. That’s when her family knew something was wrong.
“My dad and I went on a trip to Mexico, just me and him, he saw me in a bathing suit, and he was like, you know you look really sick,” said Schick. “They just asked me what’s going on, and I said, ‘Well honestly, there’s a voice in my head that’s telling me what to eat and what not to eat’.”
After telling her parents, she went to her primary care doctor and was immediately referred to the University of Michigan Medicine’s Comprehensive Eating Disorders program.
But she couldn’t get into the UM clinic until nearly a year later, when she was hospitalized. She started having severe chest pains to the point where she couldn’t breathe.
“I think the whole time I was just really scared,” said Schick. “When I got my vitals taken, my heart rate was like 54, just a lot of very malnourished signs, but in my head, I wanted all of those things. I was unaware obviously when I was really really sick of how harmful I was to myself.”
Schick said she’s a perfectionist, and her doctors have told her that people with eating disorders exhibit the same signs. The only thing she felt she could control in her life was the way she looked when the fate of her college golf career was out of her hands.
“At that moment, playing college golf was all I wanted, and it was all I thought about,” said Schick. “That was the first thing that got taken away from me, along with my freedom.”
Her health came first, and that meant the dreams of college golf took a backseat. She graduated early from high school and was admitted to the UM clinic to get help. Every day in the hospital, she thought about what it would take to get back to playing golf, and it was the one thing that kept her from giving up.
Debbie Williams-Hoak has coached the Saline girls golf team for 15 years and was Schick’s coach for three. As an experienced golfer, she knows the immense pressure high school athletes face and has taken it upon herself to advocate for her players’ mental health.
“I recognized what she was going through, and I just tried to be as much of a positive source for her as I could, trying to get her to realize what she needed to do to achieve her goals,” said Williams-Hoak. “I would just try and tell her, you know, forget about the outcome, forget about the results, forget about what people are telling you and just go out and enjoy playing your round of golf.”
Schick, now a senior at Michigan State, finds herself in the same place again: this time as the only female playing competitively on the co-ed club golf team.
But five years ago, she was in the worst spot of her life playing the game she loved.
Today, she uses golf as her motivation to continue getting better.
“I tell myself if you go down that hole again, you aren’t going to be able to play golf, you aren’t going to be able to do anything,” said Schick. “I know I have to be strong enough to play 18 holes or have enough swing speed to be in contention with girls, so it’s a huge motivator.”
That voice in her head remains. Every day is a battle within herself, but she continues to overcome, knowing that she is stronger today than she ever was in high school.
“Every time I look in the mirror, I’m not seeing what is actually there; that’s something I deal with every day,” said Schick. “It still is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with, but I’m so proud of myself for where I’m at today. It takes a lot of strength not to give up.”