Kelli Murphy earned an honor the other day — the Carolina Golf Association’s girls’ junior player of the year for 2012 — and those who know her game predict more awards will follow.
“She’s obviously quite a player” said Mike Castelluzzi, teaching professional at the Windermere Club and Murphy’s instructor. “Her biggest strength is focus, staying in the moment. She plays one shot at a time, and she is one of the few who can do that.”
Murphy, a junior at Lugoff-Elgin High, who took up golf at age 5, has started on the school boys’ team since the seventh grade. She took a giant stride forward in the U.S. Junior Girls’ amateur last summer. Her immediate aim is the high school season with top-grade junior competition to follow before enrolling at Auburn in the fall of 2014 and, hopefully, the LPGA Tour after college.
To that end, “I try to do something every day to improve my game, but I have to cut back sometimes for school work,” she said. Her main focus is increasing distance off the tee and, she said, “I’m making a swing change to try to accomplish that.”
“Distance will come,” Castelluzzi said. “Kelli’s not big in stature, but she will become stronger as she gets older. That takes patience, and patience is one of her strengths. She accepts that she’s not as long as she would like and consequently has developed a really good short game.”
He related a story from former USC player David Kite, Tom Kite’s son, who noted that long hitters can play well and short hitters can play well, but a short hitter who tries to play long will be frustrated. “That applies to Kelli in that she doesn’t try to force (distance),” Castelluzzi said, “and we’re working to generate more club-head speed.”
The high school season and the Can-Am matches will occupy her spring before her schedule picks up steam. She played in 28 events last year — including her third win in the Columbia Women’s City Championship — and this year’s challenges will include attempting to qualify for the U.S. Junior Girls and the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Murphy calls her performance in the 2012 Junior Girls — advancing to the quarterfinals in her first USGA event — “probably my favorite golf experience.”
Juliana Sebastian (Columbia) won the Girls’ under 19 division of the International Junior Golf Tour’s tournament in Harmony, Fla., by eight strokes. Evan White (Greenville) finished second in the boys’ 14-and-under age group. ...
Gene Dupre (Columbia), Will Jones (Easley), and Kip Merck (Easley) took their team to third place in the National Kidney Foundation Cadillac Golf Classic National Finals at Pebble Beach. The three South Carolinians joined Mark Sobolewski (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) on the Columbia-based foursome that shot scores of 62-61-63—186. They missed first place by two shots in the 54-hole scramble. They qualified for the finals by finishing in the top three of the Spring Valley Country Club NKF Cadillac Golf Classic last year. ...
Save the date: the annual Columbia Golf Ball, a fund-raiser for junior golf, will be April 11 at the State Fairgrounds. For tickets and sponsorships, call the SCGA at (803) 732-9311.