Shaler Area sisters take charge at North Hills Golf Academy

Shaler Area sisters take charge at North Hills Golf Academy

After lots of hard work and determination, Shaler Area alumni sisters Samantha Smyers Schoenfeld and Sydney Smyers Conway came together to take over the North Hills Junior Golf Academy, which they have since renamed North Hills Golf Academy.
Even though they took over the company around February in 2020 with the growth of the pandemic, it did not stop the determined women from presenting a fun and exciting environment for newcomers or established golfers.
At NHGA, the sisters offer group classes for junior golfers, Women’s programs, open swing sessions, and even different levels of private lessons.

Samantha Smyers Schoenfeld

“When we acquired the business about a year ago, we dropped the ‘junior,’ so that we can bring in everyone who wants to golf. Junior is our prime focus because that’s what we are known for–we have just rebranded it over the past year,” Samantha said.
The sisters both have their areas of strength and they work together to fulfill the image that they have for the company.
“We were approached by the previous owner to purchase it. I knew I couldn’t do it without Sydney and the support of our two husbands. It’s the four of us who run the business together,” Samantha said.
At first, they were faced with many challenges since they purchased it right before the pandemic. The family was constantly worried about how they were going to get through it, but they still had hope and excitement.

“The biggest thing that came out of COVID was that everyone wanted to golf this year,” Sydney said. “It was one of the few activities people could do. People are socially distanced and they bring their own equipment. We still had to alter things like reducing the class sizes.”
Many who went were excited to try out a new hobby and the staff members at North Hills Golf Academy always made them feel welcomed.
In the sisters’ high school careers at Shaler Area, they were very intertwined with sports along with their education, which later led them to the path they chose today.

Sydney was a softball player who got onto the varsity team as a freshman. During sophomore year, she had a lot of opportunities to pitch in games which led to even more recognition.

“The day before our first playoff game, (Coach) Palmer came up to the bullpen and told me I was going to be the starting pitcher,” Sydney said. “Our other pitcher quit that night- she turned in her uniform that night too. So then I pitched the rest of the playoff games and we made it all the way to the WPIAL Championship game.”

Sydney Smyers Conway

Sydney then decided to follow her passion for softball into college when she got recruited to play at Niagara University, where she got her masters in business for accounting.

“I went there for 4 years. It was a Division 1 School, but the program—Shaler could’ve beaten Niagara. In high school, everyone just loved being there. Then we got to Niagara and the girls didn’t want to be at practice,” Sydney said. “I was like, ‘You’re being paid to be here. This is great, what are you doing?’ It just was not the same caliber of mental game as at Shaler.”
Samantha was also really into sports too, but pursued golf rather than softball. Not only did she play it, she established it at Shaler.
“Sam created the girls team at Shaler,” Sydney said. “She recruited all the girls on the team, me included. She’s the one that got me into golf. Sam was on the boys team for 3 years. She went to WPIALs and she went to the State Championships for golf, and she created the girls team at Shaler and recruited other girls to be on the team and the program is still there today. She was heavily recruited to play golf and she chose to go to St. Francis.”
Sam stayed at St. Francis for two years and did golf, then decided to go to La Roche to finish her education, obtaining her undergraduate degree in political science.
“I ended up going back for my teaching certificate,” said Sam. “And then I knew I wanted to stay in golf and coach it, so I coached at Shaler for a few years.”
Even with all of this background with sports, business, and teaching the Smyers were never fully sure that they would have a business like this today.

Golf has been great for us. Sports have been great for us…We knew we were going to have a business, but we just didn’t know what it was and as soon as it presented itself we knew it was going to fit and something we could do as a family. It just feels so natural to be in this business.”

— Sydney Smyers Conway

“I definitely didn’t,” Samantha said. “I’m not this big risk taker. I’m perfectly fine with having a good job like anybody would be–having stability. So, it took me a while to get on board. I knew we could do it and I knew it would be really fun. I hadn’t really thought about if I would be good at it, since it didn’t fit into my box that I have already found myself in. But, then again that is life in general. You didn’t think you needed something and later said ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I never did that.’ That’s exactly how I feel now. I can’t imagine not doing this. This extra job is bringing so much joy not just to me, but also Sydney. We are able to spend more time together and connect more with all these other people that we are meeting as well. So, it has been really fun.”

Even with the uncertainty of the idea, Sydney pushed them into this direction and was confident that it would work out.
“I always wanted to own my own business and have always wanted to do my own thing and be my own boss. I definitely found out early in my career that you get what you work for and if you feel like you’re working really hard for something and you’re not seeing the results, you need to look at where you’re at and why you are not getting results,” Sydney said. “I love talking to people and I love being in charge. More than anything I love planning and all of the infrastructure of building a business.”
Her memories dating back from college softball is what also pushed Sydney to running her own company in the future.
“(My college coach) did a lot of really terrible things and was really mean to all of us to the point where she needed to be put under investigation. Seeing that…I couldn’t follow bad managers. At that moment I think I knew I wanted to own my own
business– I just didn’t necessarily know what it was going to be,” Sydney said. “Golf has been great for us. Sports have been great for us. I still give pitching lessons in our facility. I definitely wanted to stay in that realm. My husband went to Shaler and played baseball and football when he was there. He loves that sort of program too. We knew we were going to have a business, but we just didn’t know what it was and as soon as it presented itself we knew it was going to fit and something we could do as a family. It just feels so natural to be in this business.”
With all of their hard work over the years, their parents were pumped and have always dreamed that they would buy the golf business.
Friends and family were a bit nervous when COVID hit everyone and they constantly checked up on the sisters and were ready to help, but the Smyers family pushed through and are improving their business even more to this day.
“When you have a new business that you open, you know it’s really important to have support from people that are in your corner. It’s challenging and overwhelming and sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to expect. We are very fortunate to have a lot of good support and people we know we can call on if we need help or assistance, since we come from a family that has a lot of small businesses,” Sam said.