Meet the Trash Queen: Golfer-Nurse Sarah Hoffman is Ruthless on the Course
Wednesday is National Nurses Day, offering some deserving attention to those who are working on the frontlines to help patients in their fight against COVID-19. It also happens to be National Golf Day, which obviously isn’t quite as significant during this current pandemic.
Put ‘em together, though, and you’ve got a hell of a story – Sarah Hoffman’s story.
A full-time player on the Symetra Tour – the LPGA’s developmental circuit – Hoffman has taken some time away from golf to return to her coinciding career as a nurse in her home state of Michigan, working three 12-hour shifts each week in the orthopedic trauma unit, while working on her game during any downtime. As of yet, she hasn’t cared for any patients affected with the virus, but she is trained for the situation should it arise.
There’s no better person who exemplifies this two-in-one national day than Hoffman – and a few major golf media outlets rightfully recognized her impact.
Randall Mell from GolfChannel.com wrote: “Amid this pandemic, Hoffman knows there’s growing uncertainty what anyone’s future holds, but she isn’t afraid to confront whatever the challenge may be. She has her nurse’s scrubs to prove it.”
Beth Ann Nichols of Golfweek wrote: “Hoffman has never wanted to give herself a timetable for success. She knows that her blue-collar approach makes her older than most. But she also feels like it has given her a mental edge.”
Terrific stuff about a golfer-nurse who truly deserves this day in the spotlight.
It was another section of Nichols’ story, though, which really caught my attention.
“In 2018, she joined West Orange Country Club in [Winter Garden], Florida, and had to work her way into the men’s group,” Nichols wrote. “They wouldn’t let her play in the big Friday skins game, but agreed to a nine-hole match. ‘I started talking trash to them and shot 33 from the tips,’ Hoffman said. ‘They realized I could hang with them and at the end of the year, threw a big going-away party and donated enough money for my entry fee in Q-School. It was awesome.’”
Those words were enough for me to grab my phone and peck a text message to a friend we call the Trash Queen (more on that later): “I can’t believe we ever let you play in the Friday game…”
(Yes, there was a smiley emoji after that – and maybe another emoji, too.)
You see, I’ve played dozens of rounds with Hoffman at West O over the past few years – and I have all of the negative Venmo transactions to prove it.
Hoffman isn’t just a professional golfer. She also happens to be a world-class trash-talker and one of the most shrewd on-course gamblers that I’ve ever come across.
While the other golf publications fittingly told her story on a national day earmarked for a combination of her two careers, we at The Action Network tend to focus on the speculative side of such stories, so I asked Hoffman a truly inquisitive journalistic question.
“What’s your best West O betting story?”
Her reply: “Let me think about it, nothing comes to mind right away.”
To be clear, that’s because there are too many stories, not too few. Like most of us, every day she’s spent on the course has devolved into a blur of individual matches with automatic two-downs and two-person best-ball siders and team gross/net games with skins, greenies and sandies.
And also to be clear, she’s come out ahead on these wagers more often than not.
“There was the time,” she said, “that I duffed my chip, then John Robinson three-putted and I chipped in to flip all the bets and win on the last hole.”
(I offered to withhold names to protect the innocent, but Hoffman insisted she’d only let me use the story if I named names.)
“Then there was the time Jason Sobel and I were partners and beat longtime PGA Tour pro Carl Paulson.”
(What? No, of course I didn’t goad her into offering up that story. What makes you ask?)
“There was also the time Jim Karr was putting with a hybrid on the practice green and talking trash to all the guys. I didn’t even know him, but I said, ‘That’s an awful lot of chirping for someone putting with a hybrid.’ He just laughed and came over to introduce himself and asked me to play. Then I took his money.”
(Totally ruthless – and completely true.)
“That first Monday, though,” she told me, “when I had to prove myself, that was the best one.”
Before we go any further, I should specify that this isn’t a gender-bias situation. Male or female, old or young, scratch or 18-handicap, if you arrive at West O and start chirping at the regulars, you’re going to have to prove yourself pretty quickly.
Hoffman learned this when she first showed up a few years ago.
“I met Frank Dillon [one of those regulars] my first day at West O and asked if anyone played for money out here. He told me about the Friday afternoon skins game, so I showed up on Friday. I went into the pro shop to pay and they said they weren’t sure if I could play, but they would let me know. Turns out the guys were scared and didn’t want me to play.”
(Hey, would you let a professional golfer just jump into your usual money game? We’re friendly, but we’re not dumb.)
“They said I couldn’t play that day, but I should come play with them on ‘Man-Up Monday’ where everyone plays the tips. I showed up with something to prove. I don’t care if there is only $1 on the line, I always want to win, because I’m so competitive. This was different, though. I wanted to prove I could play in the higher-stakes games.”
(I can confirm all of this – she’s as competitive as they come.)
“I enjoy playing with something on the line, so there’s a little more pressure to simulate tournament days. There is inherently nothing different between a 5-footer for money and a 5-footer with nothing on the line, but getting used to making them under pressure makes you a better player. I was warned that the guys liked to smoke, drink, talk trash, and pee in the woods. I let them know that I enjoy talking trash, as well – and that I know when a guy wanders near a tree he didn’t hit his ball toward, I don’t keep looking.”
(I can, um, maybe confirm this, too.)
“We were playing a nine-hole trash game. [The aforementioned skins, greenies and sandies – aka, trash.] On the first hole, I was the only one to make a birdie and it was from the greenside bunker. I proceeded to talk trash the entire way around the course, shot 33 and won the trash for my team. From that day on, I was named Trash Queen. The guys say it’s because I talk too much trash, but they forget the nickname came because I won the trash game.”
The best nicknames offer more than one meaning, which makes this one perfect.
On a day meant for simultaneously celebrating the unending work of nurses and the unnerving sport of golf, Hoffman serves as a brilliant combatant for both industries, bouncing between dual careers with optimism and positivity.
Unless you’re playing against her, that is.
That’s when Sarah the sympathetic nurse turns inconspicuous, giving way to the Trash Queen’s ruthless business on the course.
Off of it, though, she’s slightly more merciful. As a post-script to that story, Hoffman recalled a club that turned into a home.
“After that game,” she said, “I played in all the money games. After three winters of going to West O for the preseason, I consider those guys my second family. They threw me a going-away party and donated enough money for my entry fee at Q-School in 2018. They were trying to look after me, they just didn’t know I could hold my own.”