NAPLES, FLA | At the beginning of 2022, Sophia Schubert was on the hunt for a hobby. She wasn’t looking for anything specific, just something to take her mind off golf. Enter, Top Gun: Maverick.
“It’s not something I’ve wanted to do,” Schubert said of her adventures in the sky. “My boyfriend and I went and saw Top Gun. I was like, ‘You know what, I’ve been looking for a hobby outside of golf, something to kind of distract myself. So, I might as well try this. It seems fun.’”
So – just like that – Schubert started learning how to fly a plane at the McGhee Tyson airport, just 20 minutes from her home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Schubert has been flying for five months now, mostly in small two-seat crafts like a Cessna 152, and says she’s gotten the flying part down pat.
“I took off the very first time that I got in the plane for my first lesson,” Schubert said, smiling. “I haven’t landed, that’s the scary part. The flying is not that hard, but it’s all the ground school and the book stuff that’s the hard stuff.”
Still just a beginner, Schubert said she only goes out in perfect weather, so she hasn’t had any scares in the air. She loves everything about flying so far, besides talking to air traffic control.
“I think the adrenaline from taking off (is my favorite part),” Schubert said. “Being in control of an airplane and then being able to look down, it’s really special to be up there and do that.
“The scariest part was when my instructor said, ‘You need to call into the tower and tell them what we're doing.’ I was like, ‘No, I don't want to do that yet. I don't know what to say.’”
Schubert anticipates getting her pilot’s license in the next year but had to put her lessons on hold for a month due to her playing schedule – after all, flying is just a hobby.
The rookie has had a phenomenal first year on the LPGA Tour, highlighted by a runner up finish at The Amundi Evian Championship. Schubert made her debut at the CME Group Tour Championship on Thursday, carding a 4-under opening round with five birdies and just one bogey.
“It was a great day,” Schubert said coming of the 18th green on Thursday. “I’m just excited to be out here. Went into it with the mindset of you’ve accomplished your goal of getting to CME as a rookie, so just have fun. That’s what we did.”
Schubert’s ultimate goal is to fly herself to a tournament, just like Arnold Palmer and Peggy Kirk Bell did once upon a time. Obviously, Schubert is far away from piloting herself around the country. She still needs to get that pilot’s license and then she’ll need to get herself a plane.
Taking home $2 million winner’s check on Sunday would go a long way towards getting herself that plane. Then, all she’ll need to do is learn how to land it.