Riding with Recruits: Kelley Topiwala
Carmel Christian School star golfer Kelley Topiwala is tiny, but she can really smack a golf ball.
At 5-foot-4, Topiwala has a long, smooth swing that can send the ball about 250 yards, very straight, down the fairway with her driver. The average male amateur golfer can hit it about 220, according to TrackMan Golf, which runs computer software and technology popular on the PGA Tour.
Topiwala, 17, just finished a memorable junior year at Carmel, where she led the girls’ team to its first N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship.
“My ninth-grade year, I really wanted to play on a girls’ golf team,” Topiwala said. “We didn’t have one, so my goal was to make it to (the state finals) and make all-state.”
Topiwala finished 18th in the finals as a freshman. She was a one-person team. As a sophomore — and with one teammate — Topiwala finished seventh overall and made all-state.
This season, playing with three teammates, Topiwala finished fourth individually and her team won the trophy in Division II. Two other Carmel golfers — Bethany Welch and Annalise Dale — posted top-10 finishes.
Topiwala made all-state for the second-straight season.
“Technically, this was a first-year team because it was our first full team,” she said. “So this year, we really worked hard and pushed each other and told each other, ‘We’re going to try to make it to states, and if we don’t win, it’s OK, because it’s our first year.’ But we worked hard enough to win the whole thing. That was a real exciting moment.”
Topiwala has committed to Division-I Samford in Homewood, Alabama. She has a 1.9 handicap and a strong work ethic that dates back to when her father introduced her to the game when Topiwala was 4 years old.
Growing up, Topiwala often had to play from where her dad was, meaning she was playing holes that were much longer than most girls her age would attempt. Not being able to consistently reach the green with her approach shots, Topiwala developed a strong short game, which has helped her lower her handicap to 1.9.
“Sometimes, I still struggle to get on the green in two (shots),” Topiwala said, “but my short game really helps.”
Topiwala is hoping to win a state individual championship as a senior and she’s getting ready for a busy summer of competitive golf. She practices six days a week, lifts weights twice a week and does hot yoga and specialized swing speed training.
She still plays a lot with her dad and still hits from where he hits from, but Topiwala — who shot a career-best 5-under 67 last fall — said one thing is a little different these days.
“The first time I beat him was four or five years ago,” she said. “That first time was pretty awesome. He didn’t really expect it, but he knew the time would come, and it started consistently happening and I don’t think he’s beaten me since.”