Kansas Golf Foundation Scholar: Kaitlynn Walker
Freshman college students face myriad adjustments during their first year of higher education -- even those who aren’t student athletes making a go of playing two sports. Russell Kansas Golf Foundation scholar Kaitlynn Walker, who admits a large part of the reason she chose Ottawa University was the opportunity to try her hand at college golf AND basketball, is learning very early in her freshman year how important time management can be.
“We’ve been playing fall golf…I’ve already participated in two tournaments,” says Walker, an 18-year-old exercise science/pre-physical therapy student. “In my spare time is when I practice golf, so in between classes, I’m out at the golf course practicing my game. After classes, between 4 and 6, I’m at basketball practice. So I’m doing both sports at the moment. Trying to figure out my time management is one of my biggest tasks right now. ”
Golf, basketball, track & field, softball…
Walker says she came to golf as a youngster at the Russell municipal course. She began playing the sport under the tutelage of head professional Joe Roth and was drawn to it.
“My dad started me when I was 9 and I wasn’t really interested at the time,” says Walker. “Our golf pro introduced me to his family and started giving me lessons. I practiced on my own all of the time and it just became another sport to play.”
A multi-sport athlete at Russell High, Walker played golf all four years. Though she didn’t play in any junior golf events until just before her senior season, as a freshman she was part of a “stellar” Russell team that placed in every tournament, won regionals and finished third in the state at Cheney.
“I started off kind of slow but I got better as the season progressed,” she recalls. “…(at state) I didn’t have a very good outing and shot a 109.”
Her sophomore season the Lady Broncos returned to the state meet and placed seventh at The Highlands in Hutchinson. Her junior year the team had lots of turnover and didn’t finish as well, though Walker had one of her best career rounds with an 83 to place second at state, held at Cheney again. Finally as a senior, competing in the 3A division, Russell made its team return to state where the squad finished fifth and Walker again placed second individually.
Walker, who’d been playing basketball since third grade, was also an all-conference guard on the RHS hoops team as the Lady Broncos were league champions. She was a all-league centerfielder on the softball team and even ran track. Her busy high school schedule included National Honor Society, National Business Honor Society, Peer Helpers and numerous other interscholastic activities.
But it was on the golf course where she learned some valuable life lessons.
“I’ve learned that golf is pretty much a patience-in-myself sport,” Walker says. “You’re always going to have bad holes, but if you keep your head in it and just go on to the next hole, hopefully, that bad hole won’t affect the rest of your game.”
Physical therapy career
Walker says her college decision came down to Ottawa University and Sterling. But only Ottawa offered her a chance to play the two sports she’d been so passionate about. That, and trip to the community, sold her on the school and she became a Lady Brave.
“I had multiple schools looking at me for golf and basketball and it was hard to choose between the two,” she says. “…I came and visited and fell in love with the campus.”
Walker, who suffered a shoulder injury her senior basketball season at RHS, got a first-hand look at a possible career choice.
“I’ve always been interested in physical therapy and sports so physical therapy seemed pretty interesting and I can deal with sports-related injuries,” she says. “I have experienced physical therapy face to face, and kind of fell in love with it.”
Walker is making the adjustment from high school to college golf well with top-20 finishes in her first two events.
“It’s been pretty good…I’ve been shooting higher than I want to, but going from high school to college (golf) is quite the difference,” she admits. “But I’m happy with my game and our team I doing pretty good. We got third at our first meet and second at our last meet.”
Even as a student athlete, Walker says she appreciates the supports she’s received from the KGF through the scholarship program.
“It helps a lot with college tuition and it means a lot that I got it,” she says. “It’s been helping with tuition very nicely and it will help throughout the rest of my years of college. It’s still pretty expensive.”