It didn’t take long for Kate Griffiths to make a choice about continuing her education and her golf in Red Deer. It was a move which paid off for both the student and the school it seems.
The 19 year old graduate of Notre Dame High School met with Red Deer College golf coach Scott Bergdahl in the spring of this year and made the commitment in June. Since then she’s done nothing but impress the coach with her work ethic and ability.
“Once she came on the radar I did some research and recognized pretty quickly she had good talent. I did meet with her, I did see her swing and that’s all I needed to see,” said Bergdahl. “When you’re on a full ride in the Southern states you know you have skill.”
The 19 year old spent a year at university at Jackson State in Mississippi but had a change of heart and is now taking kinesiology at RDC with the goal of branching out to physical education.
“It was too far from home for me. It was a big culture shock and I just needed some time at home before I go back down,” she said.
So the American experience hasn’t been written off completely however and she says even if she doesn’t go back there for schooling she does want to try her hand on some of the tours south of the border.
She’s been playing the game for almost a dozen years, walking the fairways of River Bend and Red Deer Golf and Country Club. This summer was more of a working one for her but when she did hit the course she produced results.
“I was working full time landscaping so I do think my game this year at RDC could have been a lot stronger than it was. Even with the short time I had with Coach Scott and (assistant coach) Brett Bingham to get me ready for nationals was awesome.”
The prep work done before the CCAA Nationals must have been really good as she took home a silver medal and was named an All-Canadian.
“We got together earlier in the year and worked on her chipping, her pitching. Nothing really with the swing,” said Bergdahl. “She’s a very talented and determined athlete.”
Her talent shines through in most parts of the game but she admits the course management part of this difficult game is something she has struggled with this year. The scores at day one at Nationals were a good example, she said.
“I was one under after the first nine and then got on to the back nine and I think I went par, par, bogey, bogey and it kind of got into my head a little bit and then I played too aggressive to make some birdies.”
She credits Bingham for helping her with some of the mental aspect of the game in order to stay calm and focused. Bergdahl agrees, saying Bingham (a former amateur and Canadian Tour player) has some valuable knowledge to contribute to coaching Griffiths in particular and this team in general.
“He was very instrumental in helping a lot of them. In his own way he can identify with them, what their emotions are doing in the heat of the battle.”
One the plus side of the ledger she says her length off the tee ( an average drive of around 275) is her best attribute as it puts her down the fairway far enough to be using a shorter iron than most of the other girls. She says her hockey background during her high school days have helped develop a strong leg drive and she does workout in the gym a lot.
Like so many student athletes there is the constant struggle to find the balance between going to school and working on your sport to stay at a top level. Griffiths says being in the kinesiology program at Red Deer College is the best scenario she could imagine. The school mantra is essentially turning out good students and then good athletes.
“Two of my professors are coaches so they understand and they make it a bit easier for you to catch up and get assignments done when you’re on the road,” she said.
She says while her studies are important she is able to put school on the back shelf when she is on the golf course-to a point.
“I’m taking anatomy and sometimes if we’re sitting on a tee box or if it’s a really slow round, the best way to keep my mind occupied is I will look at my arm and my hand and to myself I’ll start listing off the bones.”
Bergdahl hopes to see her tee it up for RDC next season and is quick to add to her laurels as a person and a golfer.
“Kate represents Red Deer College, the city of Red Deer and herself so well,” he said. “She is the best female player that RDC has ever had and we’ve had some pretty good ones. Her potential is very high.”
Griffiths would love to follow in the footsteps of another young Canadian female golfer, Brooke Henderson currently playing and doing well on the LPGA Tour. It motivates her but at the same time she says it has caused her to look back at her early days of the sport. A sort of glance at what maybe could have been?
She said during high school she had plenty of opportunity to work only on golf but instead she chose to play other sports like hockey. If she had devoted her time to just the one sport she feels her game would be much better than it is right now. It’s in the past but the decisions made early on have brought her to this point either way and she’s comfortable.
“I’m here now and I’m playing golf and I’m focusing on golf,” she said. “It does motivate me and I’d love to have a success story like that one.”
If the view of her coach means anything, stay tuned as there is more to come from this dynamic young golfer.