SOAP LAKE — Storm clouds hovered on the horizon, trying to decide where to unload the torrential downpour headed this way. A fine mist filled the air Tuesday afternoon at Lakeview Golf & Country Club as big raindrops began to fall. You know, those big fat ones that leave a splash, even on the grass.
There’s been a storm brewing in Ephrata junior Kendee Peters ever since she won the 2A state individual championship two years ago as a freshman. It’s probably been brewing a little longer, but that was the year she made the significant drop in her scoring average from 80 to 75. Now it’s a matter of how low can she go.
Peters won the 2A District 5-6 tournament on Tuesday, draining a 20-foot, downhill putt for birdie for her best round of the season, a 3-under-par 69.
“I told myself, this is going in,” she said, sitting in the Lakeview restaurant with that same air of confidence she had standing over the putt two days prior. “Once I hit it, I thought it better go in because it was rolling off the green if it didn’t.”
Boomshakalaka. It was the punctuating stroke to her personal best on the home course and a shout out to the rest of the 2A girls golfers that Peters’ A-game just got better.
“I’m playing the best I ever have, no doubt,” she said, no brag, just fact.
She has it rolling to be sure, but it’s because of all the work that no one sees. She’s spent countless hours working with swing coach Joe Thiel, a three-time PGA Teacher of the Year at the PGA Golf and Learning Center in Olympia. Her new Titleist driver is giving her 15 extra yards off the tee. She’s worked on her wedge game and that all important approach shot in the quiet of evening when it’s just her and the night air. Can’t hit it close, can’t make birdie. But, you can’t make birdie if you can’t roll it and nowadays, the 10-footer has to be automatic if you plan on going low.
But even with all the work on her physical game, it’s the mental aspect that separate great from good, she said.
“There was a time when I’d get a double-bogey and that’s all I would think about for the next five holes. But really, nobody should know if you’re 5-under or 5-over by looking at you,” she said with a smile that said easier said than done. “I’ve been working on keeping my composure.
“There’s a thing called Player One and Player Two. Player One is the one that wants you to play well, wants you to succeed. Player Two is like the evil twin that says you can’t do this — no, no, no. It’s all about controlling Player Two.”
Peters and Player One are undefeated this season and she heads into the 2A state golf championships next week at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane as a contender to win her second individual medalist honor in three years.
She’s one of a handful of girls with the game to stay at the top of the leaderboard all the way through and why not? It’s hard to get all flustered with Washington state golf when you’ve played at the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, which touts past champions like LPGA stars Lorena Ochoa, Amy Alcott, Brandie Burton and Jennifer Rosales.
“I’m just a small town girl from Ephrata and this was just my second tournament playing against players from around the world,” said Peters, who has given a verbal commitment to Washington State University to play Pac-12 golf.
“It was such a culture shock playing against somebody from Shanghai or the Philippines.”
Her Korean is a bit rusty, she said, but what a wonderful experience playing the legendary Torrey Pines North Golf Course with a worldwide field.
“You get up to the first tee and they’re announcing so-and-so from Texas or so-and-so from Florida. They they announced me from U-fraida, Washington,” she said with a laugh. “But once I figured out it was just golf — nobodies from nowhere, we’re all the same. It’s you versus the course, it was a lot of fun.”
Her endgame is to turn professional. There is so much available to women golfers these days with mini tours or the LPGA Tour. The sky is the limit for those who work for it and Peters is on track with an upcoming Pac-12 career on the not-so-distant horizon.
But first things first, she has the 2A state golf championships and the best golfers in Washington state to contend with.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer at the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at email@example.com