Nurse golfer trades clubs for scrubs during pandemic

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) —When the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to sports, Sarah Hoffman put away her golf clubs, left the Symetra Tour and went back to her job as a nurse.

“It’s a struggle for everybody. I think it’s unprecedented times,” Hoffman said of the pandemic.

A graduate of Grand Valley State University, she made 10 cuts in 20 Symetra Tour events last year. She was ready for a breakout season as a full-fledged member in 2020.

Instead, she’s working 13-hour days as a nurse at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, wearing a mask the whole time.

“I still feel sometimes like I’m wearing it when I’m not in the hospital,” Hoffman said.

While she does not work directly with COVID-19 patients, she is trained to do so and she has seen the toll the pandemic is taking on her colleagues.

“Burnout in nursing is a real thing, and it’s hard to take care of people constantly and putting your needs second to a patient,” she said. “I haven’t seen any COVID patients on my unit and hopefully we continue to decrease and that doesn’t happen. But I know all the ICU nurses. I give them so much credit for dealing with this on the front lines. Having to hold up iPads to patients so they can say goodbye to their loved ones — I can’t even imagine what they’re dealing with.”

After golf courses closed, Hoffman went more than a month without touching her clubs. While she missed it greatly, she said she knew she was playing an important role in helping her community.

At 29, many of the women chasing the same LPGA dream as Hoffman are younger than her. But she said she couldn’t do it without nursing.

“I worked for two years to save money. I work in the offseason so I don’t have to give myself a timetable (to make the LPGA). It relieves some of the pressure. As long as I can continue to improve and as long as I keep enjoying it, I’m going to keep chasing it,” she said. “I think golfing makes me a better nurse and nursing makes me a better golfer. By the end of the season, it’s (like), how can I help this world, how am I making a mark, how am I helping people.”

Some of her best supporters are a group of guys from West Orange Country Club in Winter Garden, Florida. She gained their favor by hustling them on the golf course. Invited to prove herself, she had to play them from the back tees. She shot at 33 and was in their weekly game.

From there, she dished out an endless stream of trash talk and took their cash.

“They threw me a going away party and they had collected donations from 20 or 30 guys. They donated whatever they could and in total it paid for my q-school,” she said.

The fee for qualifying school is $2,500.

“When I got those envelopes, I started crying,” Hoffman recalled. “I was so thankful. To be able to develop a relationship with those guys, yeah, they trash talk, but when it’s all said and done, they are my second family.”

She was a late bloomer in golf, only breaking 80 twice during high school. But she keeps getting better and, as those guys from Florida found out, it doesn’t pay to bet against her.