Katie Kirk has found success as a high school golfer at North Mecklenburg, in college as a rising senior at East Carolina and in Carolinas Golf Association amateur play.But despite her successes on the course, as she scanned her trophy case on a recent trip home to her parents’ Davidson residence, she felt like there was something missing.“I was looking in the cabinet, I kept seeing runner-up here, runner-up there, runner-up, again,” said Kirk. “I couldn’t help but think how I was always the bridesmaid and never the bride. My goal has always been to win the tournaments. Your name doesn’t go in the history books for finishing second place.” Kirk, 21, was an all-conference, all-region and all-state performer at North Meck, and was ranked as high as the No. 2 junior golfer in the state by Carolinas Golf Association while in high school. She’s won her share of tournaments over the years, she never felt she had the big-time, breakthrough victory that she really coveted.Her time finally came on May 22 at Wachesaw Plantation Club in Murrels Inlet (S.C.) as she birdied the par-5 18th hole to win the 88th Carolinas Women’s Amateur by one shot over her final day playing partners Bailey Cocca (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) and Tiffany Robbins (Fort Mill, S.C.). Kirk stuffed a sand wedge to two feet from the cup for what turned out to be a tap-in birdie for the win. That shot capped her second straight one-over-par 73 as she shot a 220 (74-73-73) in the tournament.“Standing on the 18th tee, I knew I had to birdie to win it,” said Kirk. “I decided to make it a three-shot hole, laying up to my favorite wedge distance and I was able to hit that (wedge) within 2 feet. It was a great feeling to win a major CGA tournament and it was the most exciting win I’ve ever had. To birdie to win it made it even more special. That’s the kind of stuff you dream about doing.” Kirk’s dream-like run continued July 2 at Sapona Ridge Country Club in Lexington, N.C.In her fifth year of trying to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Kirk fired a one-over-par 72 to finish in a tie for fifth, easily qualifying as one of the top-10 finishers. Kirk impressed herself by shooting under par on the back nine, carding a 34 after a 38 on the front nine.“A lot of players – even me sometimes – might have seen they were over par on the front nine and thought they didn’t have a chance,” said Kirk, who birdied 10, 13 and 15 on her way to the finish. “But after I birdied 10, I was like, let me see if I can get a couple more. “I’ve tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and been so close, like one or two shots short. So to see myself finally make it feels like I’m crossing a barrier. I feel like I’m taking my game to another level.”Less than a week later, Kirk made it to the finals of the Carolinas Women’s Amateur Match Play event July 8-10 at Cowans Ford Country Club for the second year in a row.While Kirk, who won medalist honors in the match play qualifying with a 67, ultimately lost to Western Carolina head golf coach and former University of Georgia standout Mallory Hetzel in the finals, it was another great finish to keep her momentum going.“Katie has always worked really hard at her game, so to see her get these results has been great,” said Robert Linville, Kirk’s golf coach who has worked with her since she was a sophomore in high school and is owner of Precision Golf in Greensboro. “She’s really matured and knows how to play to the strengths of her game. She just keeps getting better and better and hopefully she can carry this success over into her senior year at East Carolina.”But first, Kirk, will play in biggest tournament of her career at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Aug. 4-10 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.Kirk will spend 10 days leading up to the event in Austria visiting her best friend, former East Carolina roommate and teammate Fanny Wolte.When Kirk returns to the United States, she will fly to New York less than 24 hours later and have two days to prepare for the U.S. Amateur, where more than 120 of the nation’s and world’s best amateurs will compete.“I just want to go out and play my best golf,” said Kirk, who tied her career-best score with a 66 this summer at Cowans Ford Country Club. “I’m really excited just to be there for now. I’m going with no expectations. I just want to try to play within myself. I think it will be a great experience for me no matter what happens.”Kirk, who carries 3.99 GPA while majoring in economics and minoring in math, will graduate in December and then start a two-year masters’ program in January.But Kirk also plans to pursue a professional golf career at the same time and plans on going to qualifying school, also known as “Q School,” in the fall of 2015.Linville believes Kirk has the talent to make it professionally, but notes she needs to add some distance off the tee. Kirk is just focused on continue to play well and give herself a chance.“I’ve been on the fence for a while about trying to play professionally,” Kirk said. “But I feel like I’m playing as well as I’ve ever played and that has given me a huge confidence boost. I’m definitely going to give it a run and see what happens. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2014
Former North Meck golfer filling up trophy case this summer
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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