GOLF

Young golfer on the up­swing

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Vandeloecht Sports Ed­i­tor

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.

[NICK VANDELOECHT/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

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.

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