Girls golf team lacked numbers but not talent

Junior Hailey Henkel prepares to putt at Jackrabbit Run Golf Course.

By Jackie Ruiz, Editor

        Ask anyone that has ever played the game of golf and they are likely to tell you – and online sources agree – that golf is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.    

According to two Senior High golfers, the game is more difficult than people think.

    Student golfers Ayla Strong and Hailey Kenkel said they both have experienced mental and physical challenges as their journey on the golf course continues.

    Both said they’ve been playing golf since they were very young because of their family and friends.

    The two varsity golfers competed during the Class A state tournament at the Norfolk Country Club Oct. 11-12. Kenkel, a junior, tied for 25th and Strong, a sophomore, tied for 32nd. Kenkel finished with a 174, while Strong shot a combined 179 during the two days.

    “The (state) course really runs you down and makes you feel like you don’t have enough energy to keep going. There are a lot of trees and leaves making it hard,” said Kenkel.

    Strong explained that being in Class A puts a lot of pressure on the team and makes it difficult to keep a positive attitude.

    “I think that I could’ve done better at the tournament, but we’ll definitely do better next year,” she said, “Being in Class A means having higher expectations so, at times, it can be difficult.”

    They explained that golf is a sport that is taken lightly by many and thought of as a simple game, but it’s really not.

    “It challenges your mind, skills, and strength. Being outside in the heat all day can really mess with your mind and with your body,” Kenkel said.

    When the season began, the team had four players, but two dropped out and then a freshman, Sophia Heminger, stepped in to help. However, it was Kenkel and Strong that competed the entire season.

    “Our goal is to have a full team next year, so that we can enter more competitions and play more courses. We are looking forward to having more teammates compete with us,” said Kenkel.

    Golf can definitely take a toll on a students’ mental health if they are not taking breaks, but golf is also really fun if you have the right people around, said Kenkel.

    “It’s really nice when we can hang out with the team and get to know more about each other. We help motivate and boost each other’s energy so that we feel less pressure,” she said.

    Kenkel added that their coach, Jeremiah Slough, also makes the whole experience easier and more relaxing.

    “We are usually really tense during tournaments, but Slough always comes in and makes unnecessary dad jokes that make us laugh and relax. He’s really fun to be around and helps us learn a lot about different techniques.”

    Both Senior High golf teams practice at Riverside Golf Club where there is a more relaxed atmosphere and space to play, Strong said.

    “I really enjoy going out to Riverside and working on my skills,” she said, “I think I’ve improved a lot.”

    She mentioned that her goal next year is to get under 80 strokes in golf and Kenkel said her goal was to be below 30 putts.

    “I’ve already committed and told everyone that I’d be living on the course and breathing golf next year, so I want to do my best to improve,” said Kenkel.

    The two said that while the season was full of challenges, this year’s season brought new friendships and skills to light. Both Strong and Kenkel said they hope students at Senior High try out and find golf to be as exciting and fun as they do.

    “We want students to know that golf can be a really fun sport and it’s a great way to fill time,” Kenkel said.

Sophomore Ayla Strong watched her tee shot during action this season.

Published by gishislander

Journalism/Communications instructor at Grand Island Senior High School in Grand Island, Nebraska

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