Katie Kirk has been successful at every step of her golf career.From her junior career to her days as all-conference, all-region and all-state golfer at North Meck High to this year, as a rising junior at East Carolina, Kirk has always excelled on the golf course.But after a strong start to her East Carolina golf career – earning third-team all-Conference USA as a freshman and a solid start to her sophomore season in the fall – Kirk faced some of the biggest challenges of her career this spring.Kirk, 20, first had a strained left thumb, which limited use of her hand. Then she got the stomach flu. Then, right after that, she had back-to-back bouts with tonsillitis. All told, the injuries and sicknesses forced her to miss a month of competition.“It was a pretty tough to get hurt and then sick on the team bus on the way down to the Jacksonville tournament,” Kirk said, noting four of her ECU teammates also got the flu at the same time. “To have adversity and then get sick and get sick again was very frustrating, and all of that at once is something I’ve never had to deal with. I still don’t feel like I am in the kind of shape that I was prior to all of this. But I’m working really hard, and I’m getting there.”Kirk said some of those closest to her and her golf game, like East Carolina golf coach Kevin Williams, suggested that maybe she take some time off from the game or lighten her schedule a bit this summer.But when she was at her lowest this spring, Kirk says it only made her want to work harder.“When my game is struggling, it only makes me want to do more and work harder to figure it out and get better,” Kirk said. “To play golf like we do, all year round, you really have to love the game. I’m not going to let a few setbacks stop me.”Kirk said she had to go back the basics and the fundamentals of her game after missing time and decided to simplify her game to make it easier to get back in the flow.After struggling a bit at first, Kirk’s game is coming back. She shot a season-best and bogey-free 69 at the Carolina Women’s Amateur on May 21-23 at Treyburn Country Club in Durham to finish tied for seventh overall.Then, just a couple of weeks later, Kirk earned medalist honors at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links qualifier at Ironwood Golf and Country Club in Greenville, N.C., shooting a 70.Kirk’s victory got her back in the winner’s circle for the first time a while and also qualified her for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links’ championship at University of Oklahoma in Norman, which was held June 17-22.While Kirk shot a promising 1-over par 73 in her opening round in Norman, she had two early, triple bogeys in her second round, and finished with an 84 to miss the cut.“I definitely wanted to make the cut, but the whole experience of playing in a tournament like that was great and will help me going forward,” Kirk said. “I feel like I’m getting my game back and playing well. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.”Kirk has still has a lot to look forward to this summer as prepares for U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier in July 1 at Kiawah Island’s Cougar Point. Kirk hopes to qualify for the main event at Charleston Country Club in August.Kirk’s summer schedule also includes the Carolina Women’s Match Play (July 8) at Cowans Ford Golf Club in Denver and then possibly a short break from tournament play before getting ready for her junior season at ECU – both as player and student.While Kirk excels on the golf course, she is also a top student, with a 3.98 grade-point-average at East Carolina, majoring in economics and with a minor in math.While Kirk is considering being an actuary or going into the insurance business after college, she hopes that can stay in golf, either as a player or just working in the golf industry in some capacity.For now, Kirk is focused on being the best student-athlete she can.After a tough spring season, she is anxious to move forward and prove that it only made her stronger.“What I went through is just a normal part of life,” said Kirk, whose ECU team opens in mid-September at Furman University. “But I think I learned a lot about overcoming adversity and moving forward. I’ve turned the page and moved on from last spring, but I’m really excited about starting a new season.”
Friday, Jun. 28, 2013
Kirk is taking her best shot, again
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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