Shortly after Bart Whitney took over Ardrey Kell’s golf program – boys and girls – in 2008, he asked his then-10-year-old daughter, Alexis, if she wanted to go to practice.
Alexis, who was playing everything from basketball to soccer to softball to swimming, politely declined.
“Alexis told me she didn’t want to go play a sport outside where you can’t run around and you have to be quiet,” Whitney said. “So I just laughed and said, ‘OK, maybe golf is not for you.’ I wasn’t going to push her to play.
“But once she went to a few meets later that year and saw the girls with their matching uniforms, bags and hair bows having a lot fun together, I think she got a little more interested.
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By November 2009, Alexis was playing golf with her dad and was a regular hitting balls on the range.
“I didn’t want to play golf at first because I thought it was boring. I liked to be loud and running around and stuff. At the time, I never envisioned myself as a golfer,” Alexis Whitney said.
The next summer, she played her first tournament, the Carolinas’ Golf Association Girls’ 15-and-under championships at the Country Club of Whispering Pines.
Whitney had a humbling start, shooting 132 in her first round, but enjoyed her time on the course.
“I remember (the former CGA girls’ director) Vicky DiSantis coming up to Alexis after the tournament and giving her a big hug, and saying ‘Alexis, are you OK?’” Bart Whitney said. “Even though she had shot a really big number, she had so much fun, she wasn’t even thinking about the score.”
Whitney, now 17, has been playing golf year-round since, making at least 10 percent to 15 percent improvements in her scoring each year, according to her father. She is a regular on the junior tournament tour year-round and has made strides on her father’s Ardrey Kell golf team.
Whitney averaged a 47 per nine holes as a freshman, 40.5 as a sophomore and 37.1 as a junior for the Knights. She now boasts a 2.9 handicap index.
She also has enjoyed team success: Ardrey Kell won the 4A state championship in her first two seasons and finished third last season.
“I keep telling her she’s not going to improve her score 10-15 percent every season, but she keeps proving me wrong,” Bart Whitney said.
Whitney has developed steadily. She had a breakout junior season, earning the SoMeck8 conference Golfer of the Year honors and finishing as 4A West Regional runner-up. She also tied for eighth at the 4A state meet.
“There’s been no secret to my success; it’s just been a lot of hard work,” she said. “Me, my dad and my swing coach, Leslie Elmore, are constantly working on my game. Every season, we set goals. I’m the type of person that once I have a goal in front of me, I’m going to think about it all the time until I accomplish it.”
As Whitney prepares for her final season at Ardrey Kell, she has had a great summer with top-10 finishes at the Metro Junior Championships, the Carolina Summer Classic and the Wolfpack Classic at N.C. State.
Whitney, 5-foot-3, also has worked to get stronger. She has added 25 yards to her drive this summer and consistently hits 230 yards off the tee.
She also will be a team caption this season, leading a group of teammates that includes fellow senior Erika Fleming and sophomore Nicole Kramer. The Knights should also get contributions from two rising freshmen, Emily Lang and Mary Kate Smith.
Whitney said it’s hard to believe she is now one of the top players on her team.
“It’s kind of weird to think of myself as a great golfer or the No. 1 golfer,” said Whitney, ranked No. 42 in the state according to the Tarheel Youth Golf Association’s latest junior rankings. “My dad recently told me that I was one of the best golfers in the state. It’s still hard to believe.
“I’m excited about this season and ready to get started. I always play my best golf in the fall. I think the Ardrey Kell team always brings out the best in me.”
Whitney has a bright future on and off the course, as she is also a standout in the classroom, boasting a 4.6 GPA.
Whitney said she hopes to continue her golf career in college and can’t help but recall how it all started.
“Looking back, it’s kind of funny that I used think golf was boring,” said Whitney. “But now it’s hard to imagine my life without golf. I think it would be pretty boring.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
South Charlotte girls’ golf
Other south Charlotte girls’ golfers to watch this season:
▪ Moon Cheong, Charlotte Latin, Jr.: Two-time all-state pick also recently qualified for U.S. Women’s Amateur in Portland on Aug. 10-16 and then will return to her Latin team, where she finished third at both the CISAA conference and NCISAA state meets as a sophomore.
▪ Roshnee Sharma, Providence Day, Sr.: Three-time all-state performer finished as CISAA conference and NCISAA state runner-up and is shooting to finish one spot higher in her final, high school season.
▪ Keri Kenkel, Charlotte Catholic, Jr.: Proved to be Catholic’s most consistent golfer as a sophomore, making first-team all-SoMeck8 conference, tying for ninth at the 4A West Regionals and 14th at the 4A state meet.
▪ Parker Melting, Independence, So.: Patriots’ all-conference performer finished tied for ninth at 4A West Regional meet, 20th at the 4A state meet as a freshman and looks to keep moving up.
▪ Sarah Godel, Providence, Jr.: First-team all-conference selection also a regional and state qualifier as a sophomore.
Key golf dates
▪ First practice: Aug. 1.
▪ 4A West Regional Championships and CISAA Conference Championships: Oct. 19-20.
▪ NCHSAA and NCISAA state championships: Oct. 26-27.
Compiled by Jay Edwards