Young golfer on the upswing
HOPEWELL - Evelyn Hunter’s love for the game began with her grandpa.
He bought her her first set of irons, and he was the one through whom she first picked up the golf club at the age of 14.
Playing together on the Prince George Golf Course and Swaders Driving Range, Evelyn learned through her grandpa how the game of golf worked.
A couple of months in, Evelyn won against him.
That’s about when she realized the sport was for her.
“I liked it,” she said. “I just...went with it.”
Evelyn joined Hopewell Golf as a freshman and helped establish the return of the program after it went dormant for a couple of seasons. She impressed her head golf coach Jarred Jenkins with her ability to drive the ball, and over the course of her first two high school seasons, she has dropped her nine-hole score average down to a 46 - about an eight-shot improvement from her freshman year.
Throughout the Fall she has led the Blue Devils as the team’s #1 golfer and low scorer, and she’s been a big reason — Coach Jenkins said — for why they’ve had more student-athletes come out for golf this year. He has credited her with assisting in laying the foundation of the program following its return.
“A lot of her friends came out, so that’s something I’ve been very appreciative of, because she’s kind of helped me fulfill my vision with bringing golf back to Hopewell,” Jenkins said. “She’s been a big leader of that. Golf is an individual sport, so we don’t necessarily have a team captain, but if I had to say we had a team captain, she would certainly be the team captain, the leader of our program, and I think the other golfers on our team would agree to that, because they look up to her, and when they watch her play, they’re learning from her just as much as they’re learning from me.
“It’s truly a fun environment we have with Hopewell Golf,” Jenkins said, “and Evelyn’s a big part of that.”
When she started out on the team, Jenkins saw that chipping and putting were a struggle - but that’s with any beginner, he said.
“This year I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement in her putting,” Jenkins said. “She’s made some pretty eye-opening putts. I think she’s just now starting to really get a feel of golf.”
Jenkins has explained to her: “Not everything is a full swing in golf... chipping and putting, that’s where you score.”
“And that is where she is getting better,” Jenkins said, “and I think that’ll continue to improve as she continues to play.”
Evelyn also feels she’s made gains in her swing altogether and in getting the technique down.
Her goals for her game in general? Build consistency, continue to drop her score, become more competitive against the top golfers in the area and make states.
As for this upcoming girls state golf zone qualifier at Petersburg’s Dogwood Trace Golf Course this coming Tuesday? Stay under 100 in her score.
The sophomore golfer is also hoping she can qualify for states this year, but if she doesn’t make it this year, then it will still remain a top goal for her to achieve as a junior and senior.
When it comes to golf, Evelyn loves how competitive the game is, and she loves competition. She enjoys playing with her Hopewell team because they, too, give her competition that she wants to beat.
“It’s just fun to have more people out there,” she said.
And she’s grown through not just playing tough opponents from the Central District, but also through talking with them.
“They’ve actually given me tips while I’m out there, too,” she said, “just like what I can do to make things go smoother and easier, and they’re just all friendly.”
To Jenkins, Evelyn — also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — is a very highcharacter kid. If he asks something of her, then she’s there, and she’s dependable.
“And as a coach, you love that,” he said. “You love having student-athletes that are committed, that do any and everything that you ask, and there’s been some times where I probably gave her some golf suggestions, and I don’t say that we agree on everything, but she always listens to me and she follows through, and then as a coach, that’s part of the learning curve itself. There’s times where I’ve learned from her and I’ve realized, ‘Well hey, this is what she’s good at, so I don’t want to change a thing, so stick with that.’
“I guess that’s the beauty of golf because it’s individual,” Jenkins said, “so she has an individual skill there, and I’m just fortunate...to kind of guide her and direct her out on the course.”
Outside of school, Evelyn will go over to her grandpa’s and work to strengthen her golf game through hitting the ball into the river.
“I aim at something and I try to hit it right and everything with my grandpa,” she said.
She aspires to play golf in college, and so the objective for Evelyn over the course of her high school career is to work her average score down into the upper 30s-lower 40s range in order to increase her likelihood of playing for a good women’s golf collegiate program.
“The good news is, is she’s a sophomore now, and just based on - at the rate that she has grown in this game, there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a ladies program out there for her two years down the road,” Jenkins said. “I truly believe any ladies program would be as fortunate as we are to have her. She’s a really good kid, makes good grades, does everything that a coach would ask of a student-athlete.
“I think any coach, if they had the availability, they would take a full team of Evelyns,” Jenkins said. “I think everything is looking great for her so far.”
Her quest to qualify for the girls golf state tournament as a sophomore begins this coming Tuesday morning at Dogwood Trace Golf Course in Petersburg.
Hopewell sophomore golfer Evelyn Hunter drives the ball out of the teeing area during a 2018 golf match at Dogwood Trace Golf Course in Petersburg.