With her red shirt and black skirt, blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail spilling out from her baseball cap, Kendra Meeker represents a new era in golfing. Don’t be fooled by her youth either, her mind is on the ball.
“That kid is incredible,” said her former Friday Harbor Wolverine coach Jack Rice. “She can hit a long drive like I’ve never seen.”
Kendra was around five years old when she learned to play. Her father Kent Meeker sawed handles on a couple of his own clubs and duck-taped the tops for safe gripping. With these custom-made clubs, he taught Kendra and her sister serious golfing, not just mini-putt. Kent’s goal at the time was spending quality time with his daughters. He wasn’t thinking they would play professionally.
At 20 years old, Kendra attends the University of Denver on a golf scholarship that fully pays her tuition, as well as travel expenses to golf tournaments. Those tournaments take her from San Francisco to Texas, playing on famous greens in each state.
“She did it,” Kent said. “She did all the work, made all the connections.”
He explained it was that same single minded focus Kendra uses in the game, and her resourcefulness to find the scholarship that led her to her success.
The primarily male dominated sport isn’t easy to pick up. According to the National Golf Association, only about 19 percent of golfers are women, and some 25 golf clubs throughout the country are still exclusive only to men. The tide is changing, the National Golf Association reports, with 67 percent of new golfers being female.
“I want other people, especially women, to know there are educational opportunities out there,” Kent said. He explained that universities are required to put equal amount of effort into women’s sports as men’s sports. If, for example, a college has a six-person men’s swim team, they must have a six-person women’s team. Since there, statistically, have not been as many women competing in some of these sports, like golf, women actually may have an edge.
To take advantage of these opportunities, Kent’s advice for parents and students is to start early. There is a junior golf tournament throughout the summer at the San Juan Golf Course for kids to become exposed to the sport, according to Kent.
Kent’s advice if you like the sport and get the hang of it, keep working hard to develop skill sets. Make a name for yourself playing through high school, Kent added, and do not be afraid to market yourself. Universities often don’t have funding to scout so it is up to athletes to approach the schools.
Kendra followed all those steps, getting exposed to the game early. She even attended those junior golf tournaments. Kent wasn’t sure if she would like tournament golf.
“It’s 180 degrees different than recreational golf. Very technical,” he said.
Kendra took to the detailed technicalities of tournament golf and continued to play all four years in high school. According to Rice, she went to state as a freshman and placed third. Kendra returned to state her sophomore through junior years as well. Kent tells the story about meeting a high school golf coach whose team had played against Friday Harbor, and Kendra.
“Did you know Kendra?” he asked.
“Do I know Kendra? All the coaches know Kendra,” answered the coach.
Rice was also impressed by her golfing abilities, “She is really focused in the game.”
Kendra’s life isn’t all about golf, however. Her major has been political science, now more criminal justice.
“I’m considering going to law school after this, but we’ll see,” she said.