Kate Owens felt like a small part of a big legacy heading into her sophomore season at Lambert.
As a freshman she scored a modest 81 at the Class AAAAAA state championships in Tifton while her teammates—namely Lauren Lightfritz and Kaylee Marschke—won their third-straight state title.
If the Lady Longhorns were to get four in a row, capping off historic careers for Lightfritz (Mercer) and Marschke (Auburn), they would need some help. Tiffany Kang, Lambert’s new No. 3 and a South Forsyth transfer, seemed like the addition that would lift Lambert when it went down to Moultrie in mid-May.
Instead, the entire field struggled with small, slick greens. For many, the course felt like a nightmare.
But not for Owens.
“I like courses that make me think and keep me on my toes,” Owens said. “If it’s wide open and boring I can almost doze off a little bit, but at state, especially when the sun started to go down, I just had to be so focused and dialed in just to do what I wanted to do. I wasn’t just out there hitting shots. It was a challenge.”
When she turned the corner after nine she was lamenting herself for two bogeys and a double. She was 2-over at the turn and sure that she wasn’t going to make a splash. She was also nervous that her bad holes might put the title cap in jeopardy.
Then she won the entire tournament, shooting a field-low 73, and Lambert edged Alpharetta for the championship. It was a moment of reassurance for Owens that she belonged at state.
“It was a close call for me to even make it there as our No. 4, so for me to go win was awesome,” Owens said. “I wanted to show everybody that I could hang in there and do it and not just be a four slot. I’ve been playing with and against so many of the girls there while growing up too, so to share that moment and get all of those congratulations was incredible.”
Now Owens is preparing for a paradigm shift. No longer will she be an underclassman, or an unknown—instead, she’ll likely be Lambert’s top golfer, along with 2015 state participant Christine McDonnell and a slew of youngsters.
FCN: To be on a team of two “super seniors,” what is it like getting the FCN’s Girls Golf Player of the Year honor?
Owens: It’s a huge deal for me because being the youngest one on the team at state, it’s cool to earn that. There were fantastic girls on our team. Any of us could have gotten this, so for me to be the one is really, really special.
FCN: Are you prepared to fill even bigger shoes next year and try to give Lambert a fifth title in a row?
Owens: That would be ideal. I’ll be the only one left of the four that went to state, but Christine could easily have been there too. She could beat me, I could beat her. We have depth. I don’t know how we get so many girls, but we all push each other and it makes everyone want to get better. I know the girls who weren’t at state are working super hard to be ready. I’m already excited for next year.
FCN: Who are some of your greatest golf mentors who have helped you get to this point?
Owens: Well Lauren (Lightfritz) has been my mentor. She moved in and I remember thinking oh no another girl? Competition you know, but I’m always out there with Lauren now. She’s so good at what she does. To have her kind of lead me through this whole process was a big help. I’m not sure what I’ll do without her. But my current coach Tim Weinhart has been huge. He’s so good. He taught me that golf is 90 percent mental, he taught me how to get around a golf course.
FCN: Do you have a favorite memory from the season?
Owens: State was incredible of course, but I’d have to say when I was playing at Chateau Elan when I was sick and during the tournament I ended up going 4-over into my last five and I ended up birdying three of those holes to finish at 72, 1-over. I thought I might have to quit. But also a moment when we were playing a scramble, me, Lauren, Kaylee and Tiffany. We all hit terrible tee shots but then Lauren holed in the second and we were just all jumping up and down. Golf is seen as such an individual sport but I loved team moments like that.