Threlkeld returns to competitive golfGraduate student a member of Central Missouri's first team
WARRENSBURG, Mo. — After not playing golf competitively for four years, it has taken some time for Katie Threlkeld’s game to return to form.
Threlkeld was a member of the Washington High School girls’ golf team that won back-to-back state championships in 2007 and 2008, but then she decided not to go on to play college golf. Instead, she got her undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas.
But when she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Central Missouri last fall, Threlkeld looked into restarting her golf career.
“My family and I had joked about me playing during graduate school since I didn’t use any eligibility while at the University of Arkansas,” Threlkeld said. “When I got into UCM last June, I looked up their golf team online and contacted Coach [Chris] Port.”
Port, who had been hired for the task of putting together the Jennies’ first women’s golf team, couldn’t have been happier to see a golfer of Threkleld’s credentials walk through his door. Threlkeld finished 10th individually as Washington won the Class 3A state championship by 21 strokes in 2007, and she tied for eighth in 2008 when the Demons dominated the tournament for an 82-stroke win.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have had Katie show up in my office last June wanting to be a part of our program,” Port said.
But Threlkeld didn’t dominate immediately. In fact, her first round for the Jennies was a bit of a shock. Threlkeld carded scores of 95 and 94 at the Nebraska-Kearney Women’s Fall Classic on Sept. 2-3 and finished near the bottom of the field.
“It was definitely different going from riding in carts and playing for fun with my friends and family back to serious, competitive golf,” she said. “I hadn’t walked 18 holes since the state meet my senior year in 2008, so I had to get back into golf shape. I also had to work on the mental aspect of my golf game and get my focus back.”
Slowly, Threlkeld’s game came around. She finished fourth individually in the team’s final fall tournament, the Truman State Bulldog Classic, on Oct. 14-15.
“During our first couple of meets during the fall I had to shake off some rust and some nerves,” Threlkeld said. “It was my first time playing competitively since high school, so I had to get back into the swing of things.”
Threlkeld continued to work on her game over the winter, and she opened the spring season by tying for fourth place individually at the Jennies’ home tournament on March 11-12. Finally, earlier this month she broke 80 for the first time, firing a 77 during the first round of the Upper Iowa Invitational at The Preserve on Rathbun Lake on April 7.
“This winter Coach Port and another PGA teaching professional at our home course, Kris Ambrose, made a few key changes in my golf swing that have greatly improved my contact and length,” Threlkeld said. “Those changes have carried over into this spring season and have really helped my scoring. I am happy with the way I’m playing now. Those swing changes this winter have helped my game so much.”
Threlkeld’s first and only season of college golf has been a challenge. When she played for the Demons, they often won every tournament they attended. But the Jennies’ new program isn’t quite as competitive.
“We were very used to success and to winning,” Threlkeld said of her high school team. “Coach [Leonard] Kull and our team expected that from ourselves. At UCM, since this is the first year ever for a women’s team, the mindset is different. We are just working on getting better and better week to week. We set goals each week and are always trying to improve our team scores. Not necessarily win, but get better.”
Threlkeld, the daughter of Kevin and Janna Threlkeld, has not only been trying to improve as a golfer, but also juggle golf and her graduate school classes. She plans to graduate with her master’s degree in science in speech-language Pathology in December.
“At times it’s tough to juggle classes, clinic and golf practice and tournaments,” she said. “It is definitely a challenge. We practice 2-4 hours a day, Monday through Friday, so I do my best to manage my time.”
Threlkeld owned the team’s low average of 88.6 heading into the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship, which began today at the Posse Course at the Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville, Mo. And Port believes that Threlkeld could make some noise in her final collegiate golf tournament.
“Going into the conference championship I think Katie is playing as well as anyone in the conference,” Port said. “I have no doubt she will have a good finish and, honestly, if a few bounces go her way I think she will finish in the top 10 this week.”
Regardless of how she does in her final tournament, Threlkeld has made her mark on the Central Missouri women’s golf program.
“She’s a very bright young woman who has helped our team in so many ways,” Port said. “Katie may not realize this, but her leadership during our inaugural season, especially with our freshmen players, has been invaluable. It’s been such a pleasure for me to coach her this season and I know next year’s team will benefit from the example she has set.
“It’s really a shame that she doesn’t have one more year of eligibility,” Port added.
As her lone season of college golf comes to an end, Threlkeld is happy with her decision to restart her career.
“I am loving the chance to play collegiate golf,” Threlkeld said. “I didn’t take the traditional route, but eventually I became a college golfer and it’s something I’m having a lot of fun doing and am proud of. It has ben such an awesome experience.”