Unsure of whether she would ever receive a college scholarship to play golf, Keely Lavelle was determined to make this dream become a reality. She continued to push herself during the summer before her senior year, particularly by playing with the North Coast Junior Tour.
“Overall, it prepares you if you want to play in college. You learn the rules and etiquette, and you are practicing and hitting balls. It is a good push towards playing better,” said the senior from Hathaway Brown. “It is a really good experience, and the people there are going to help you throughout your career.”
Lavelle talked about the way that the NCJT does such a great job teaching their golfers the rules and etiquette of the game.
“At the session before the season, you have to take the test (on the rules of golf). So they are there to help you, and they make sure you know the rules.
“They definitely make sure you know what you are doing,” she explained. “They are there in carts helping with rules and etiquette. They’re there to support you. It helps me a lot.”
One particular rule was new to Lavelle. “One time I took a practice swing, and I hit a leaf that fell. The girl had to call me on it,” she said. “It was one of those weird rules that never happens, but you get a penalty for it.” And, although calling people out is not always easy, golf is a game that relies heavily on a person’s integrity.
“Golf is definitely a life sport,” Lavelle said. “Because there is no official or referee, you have to stay consistent with rules, etiquette, and manners. “I’ve used (my integrity)—cheating on tests—I’d feel so bad. I just can’t do it. If someone’s cheating, I am so used to calling people out on rules, so I just say, ‘No, don’t do that.’ So (integrity) definitely carries out from golf.”
Lavelle, someone who does not get nervous easily, recalled the first time she heard her name announced at a NCJT match.
“I was nervous—pretty excited. It is such a good feeling getting your name called when you’re up there hitting. The first hole’s always the hardest, then you get used to it, and it’s exciting. I was more nervous about the guys behind me,” she laughed.
And Lavelle insisted that the group of girls she golfed with made it easy for her to overcome the nerves throughout the course.
“I was (nervous), but, doing something new, you are going to get nervous,” Lavelle said. “I got over it pretty fast after a few holes. I decided that I would see these kids all the time—there was no reason for me to be nervous. The girls and boys who play are so nice. It is a good community.”
A huge part of eliminating Lavelle’s nerves was gaining confidence and strengthening her mental game.
“A lot of rounds I have not played my best, and it always came down to a few holes,” she said. “I didn’t focus well, and it carried on downhill.”
Her time with the NCJT has definitely changed her mind set and helped her gain mental toughness.
“Just having time to compete, learn the rules, and learn how to play different shots has allowed me to stop letting one hole bother me.”
Lavelle, who has won one tournament and finished in the top three in several tournaments, credits her time with the NCJT for the improvement she has made within her game over the past three years and the college scholarship she was offered during her senior year.
“My mental toughness improved. I worked on my game and moving forward (after each hole),” she said. “Playing different courses with different lengths and different places to hit from helped. Some courses were longer, so my driver and long game improved. And the greens were faster, so it helped my short game.
“You get the opportunity to compete, and you are working on your game while competing,” she explained. “You are getting better in bigger tournaments. One tournament prepares you for the next tournament, and the next tournament prepares you for the next. (NCJT) is a good first step for players learning how to play and players just working on their game.”
Lavelle’s hard work and improvement over the past year has definitely paid off. Lavelle recently signed with the University of Washington, a program competing in the talented Division 1 PAC-10 Conference. According to NCAA.com, four PAC-10 women’s golf teams currently rank in the top seven of the NGCA Coach’s Poll.
“Going into the college decision, I didn’t know if I was going to play golf or get a scholarship,” Lavelle said. “(NCJT) has changed my life. I fixed problems with my game, and I met new people. It has changed my life in general.”