For the past seven years, Ardrey Kell golf coach Bart Whitney has implemented the same process in guiding his teams from preseason to postseason.
While names and faces change, the focus on staying in the moment from start to finish has remained constant.
Whitney’s process has produced impressive results. The Knights girls’ golf team won the 4A state title in 2010 and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
That focus has also led to five straight conference titles, most recently the inaugural SoMeck 8 title to cap an undefeated season in 2013.
“We don’t start out any season thinking about winning a conference or regional or state championship,” said Whitney, whose team also won the 4A West Regional title and the Carolina High School Girls’ Challenge tournament at Campbell University last year. “We follow the same process that has worked for us and try never to get too far ahead of ourselves at any point in the season. We know every match is a part of accomplishing your goals, so we follow that process and believe that results that we earn will follow,” Whitney said.
“Our focus is always on playing the golf course, not our opponent, because you have no control on what other team does on the course. Golf is a unique sport that requires a unique way of thinking.”
The 2014 Ardrey Kell lineup has plenty of experience, with four seniors – Megan Cullip, Brianna Frank, Selena Marsland and Laura Swaringen – and junior Alexis Whitney (Bart Whitney’s daughter), who also has been a big contributor for the Knights in her first two seasons.
Bart Whitney lost his No. 1 golfer from 2013 in Moon Cheong (4A West Regional and state runner-up as a freshman), who transferred to Charlotte Latin, and last season’s No. 4 golfer Sarah Zimmerle, who moved back to Texas with her family.
But Whitney said he is confident in his returning golfers.
Cullip, No. 2 on the team and in the conference, is ranked No. 35 in the state by the Tarheel Youth Golf Association. She tied for sixth at the 4A West Regional and tied for ninth at the state meet.
Alexis Whitney, No. 67 in the state according to the TYGA, was No. 3 on the team and in conference scoring average, at 40.7, tying for 12th at regionals.
The Knights also get four new players: junior Erika Fleming, who is moving to Charlotte from Texas; sophomore Angel Santaloci; and two freshmen, Hannah Dong and Nicole Kramer.
“You need three scorers, and we’ve been fortunate in the past to have that, and this year we have two very solid players and a bunch of girls who have a chance to step up and play big roles for this team,” Whitney said. “We are very proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past, but we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that because it doesn’t mean anything for this year’s team. We just have to come to work day to day, week to week.”
The Knights also have a weighted team GPA above 4.0 and perform several service projects throughout the year. Those projects include working at Friendship Trays, where they serve meals to people in need, a team Goodwill drive and gathering golf clubs for First Tee of Charlotte.
“Honestly, it’s just a great thing to be a part of something special that you can be proud of on and off the course,” Alexis Whitney said. “As a player, you want to keep all those traditions going.”
“The Ardrey Kell golf team is like my second family, and I love all the girls to death,” Cullip said. “I’ve been with the seniors, Alexis and coach Whitney for a long time now, and we’ve learned so much about life that we (can) use in college and in the future.
“I can’t believe it’s already been four years and it’s almost over.”
No matter how the 2014 season plays out, the Ardrey Kell golf tradition is about more than what happens on the course.
“The pride we take in our program doesn’t have to do with regional and state championships,” Bart Whitney said. “All of what these girls do together in the classroom and in the community really means a lot to them. The results on the course and the championship rings are a very nice by-product of what we do, but they are just the icing on the cake.
“And everybody’s really coming for the cake.”