National Title Would Be A Nice Senior Moment For UBC’s Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy And Her UBC T'Birds Women's Golf Team Have Come Together Quite Nicely As A Team Heading Into The NAIA Women's Golf National Championships - Image Courtesy UBC Athletics

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Kat Kennedy wanted to make her final year of collegiate golf a memorable one. So far, so good. Kennedy, a 22-year-old senior with the University of British Columbia’s women’s golf team, has won five individual titles this season for the Thunderbirds and is ranked by Golfstat as the top player in the NAIA.

What she is most interested in now is a team title at the NAIA Women’s Golf National Championships, which begin Tuesday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“I am super excited,” Kennedy said in an interview before heading to Florida. “We have a great group of girls going down and we all get along so well and everybody is so energized and super-excited coming off of regionals. We shot our lowest score this year at regionals so we have some really good momentum heading to nationals.”

UBC won its regional tourney, the Association of Independent Institutions Championship in Indiana, earlier this month. The Thunderbirds shot a season-best team score of 295 in the final round. “It was super-cold and super-windy, so with those conditions it was a great tournament for us to pull a 295 off,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy, a native of Okotoks, Alta., will be joined at nationals by teammates Winnie Hyun of Langley, Claire Emery of Calgary, Kate Johnston of Ayr, Ont., and Eunice Hong of Thornhill, Ont.

After a slow start to the season, UBC coach Chris MacDonald said his women’s team has been playing some terrific golf of late. “I am really happy with my women’s team right now,” MacDonald said. “Coming into the season I think we were ranked 17th and through a very difficult winter we have moved all the way up to sixth.

“We had a few little bumps in the road around November through Christmas, but it just seemed like when we came back after January we had a few good meetings and they just really seemed very focused. We may not win but I feel very confident this is a team that could finish as a top three team from coming out of really nowhere. They have developed really well and they play really well as a team.”

Kennedy is the undisputed leader of the team and has taken her game to a new level this season. She credits her improvement to a stronger mental game. Kennedy handles adversity better than she once did. “My course management is better, I know when to be positive, I know when to push myself and know when to hold back and be patient,” Kennedy said. “I think those are some of the key things I have learned through my university career.”

“Kat has had four outstanding years,” MacDonald said of Kennedy. “She has had five wins this year, a couple of those at (NCAA) D2 events. She is proving to herself that she has made some huge strides in her golf, she has just become so consistent and is just an excellent putter. She is driving the ball a lot further because she has made a big commitment to the gym. She has really progressed.”

Kennedy said the UBC team has bonded nicely this season and that makes her feel good about their prospects in Florida. “Throughout the whole year as a team we have got a lot closer,” she said. “We trust each other, there is a lot of respect for each other, we are pushing each other to perform our best. Being part of a team is definitely a different type of atmosphere.

You are not just fighting for yourself, you are fighting for every single shot as a team because you have no idea how much impact that one shot may have for the result as a team. I think being held accountable and being surrounded by great support with our coaching staff, by every single individual on the team, gives us a lot of confidence.”

The 72-hole national championship tourney is being held at PGA National, site of the PGA TOUR’s Honda Classic. It is a course the UBC women have not seen. They’ll spend a couple of days trying to get to know it and practising on the Bermuda grass before Tuesday’s opening round.

“We don’t get much experience with Bermuda grass, so when we get there that will be the main thing we will focus on,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy has basically continued where she left off last season. Her junior year concluded with an individual win at the Canadian University/College Championships at Morningstar Golf Course in Parksville, where UBC swept all four team and individual titles.

She followed that up with a second-place finish at the Alberta Women’s Amateur Championship.

This year’s Canadian University/College Championship goes May 29-June 1 at Tangle Creek Golf & Country Club in Barrie, Ont. The UBC women will head there directly from Florida following the NAIA nationals.

CHIP SHOTS: The University of Victoria earned a berth in the NAIA nationals by finishing second to UBC at the AII regional tourney. The Vikings are ranked 22nd in the latest NAIA coach’s poll. Florida’s Keiser University is the No. 1 seed heading into the tournament.