This time of year, bump, set and spike are replaced by drive, chip and putt for Piedmont junior Kasidi Hardy.
A key cog on the Lady Wildcats volleyball team, Hardy picked up golf as a freshman despite having never played competitively before. She’d played before with her dad, Brock, along with her uncle Joel Heath and cousin Jobi Heath, who plays at Edmond Santa Fe. But Hardy wanted more than just a casual round with family.
“I like a challenge,” she said. “I’m really tough on myself mentally, so it challenged me to keep from getting upset when things don’t go right.”
Hardy likes the change from playing a team sport like volleyball to playing golf, which is mostly individual.
Kayla McKinney, left, and Kasidi Hardy pose for a picture at Lake Hefner Golf Course in Oklahoma City.
“I like how I’m basically competing against myself,” she said. “But in the end you end up competing against everyone else, too.”
Hardy enjoys working on her game and has improved steadily since her freshman season thanks to a strong work ethic and an even-keeled demeanor.
“She has a nice even-tempo swing, but the main thing is she comes out and practices every day and tries to get better,” Piedmont head coach Jamie Hill said. “She’s very coachable, listens to what I have to say and has a good temperament for golf. Golf is not a primary sport for her, so it’s impressive to me to see how much she’s improved over her three years.”
Hardy, who was in Piedmont’s top five last year when the Lady ‘Cats qualified for state as a team, shot a career-best 90 at the Suburban Conference Tournament on Monday. It’s a score that would likely be good enough to make Hardy an individual qualifier for the 5A state tournament at Scissortail Golf Club in Claremore, if she can shoot the same score or better at regionals at Crimson Creek in El Reno next week.
A big part of Hardy’s 90 at conference that followed a 91 at trosper a week earlier, as well as her chance at making state, revolves around her strong short game. Something that can be a struggle for some high school players is a strength for Hardy.
“She has a really good feel for her short game,” Hill said. “She saves a lot of strokes on holes by hitting mid-range putts. I would definitely say that’s her biggest advantage.”
Replicating the success she’s had through the final weeks of the season is all about consistency, Hardy said – especially off the tee.
“That’s what’s going to get me there,” she said. “I have to be consistent with everything I do, not just my short game.”
McKinney aiming for state, too
Kayla McKinney, like Hardy, is a junior on this year’s team and has as much experience as any golfer in Piedmont’s lineup, making her of the most veteran members of the Lady ‘Cats team.
She was introduced to golf with her dad, Dale, and grandpa, Jim Curry. The trio played on holidays or whenever time allowed, and McKinney quickly grew to enjoy the game.
Despite the early introduction to golf, when she got to high school, McKinney played basketball and wasn’t completely committed to golf.
“A little bit of both,” she said. “I was playing basketball at the time, so I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be serious about golf.”
A knee injury during McKinney’s sophomore season on the basketball court changed her outlook, though. McKinney gave up hoops and dedicated herself to golf, and this season the results have showed.
“During my freshman season my mind always got in my way,” she said. “I’ve really gotten control of that now and that’s made me a better player.”
Piedmont’s best ball-striker, when McKinney is playing well she drives the ball as well as anyone.
“Kayla can hit the ball. She can really smack it,” Hill said. “When she’s on, she’s very accurate, straight and long. She can out-drive most people she plays with.”
She fired a 92 at Trosper two weeks ago and made the highlight of her season and career, according to her, by draining a 40-foot, uphill birdie putt during the round.
“It was part of the best round I’ve ever played, too. It was awesome,” she said of the low-round of her career.
It gave McKinney, who considers her short game the weakest part of her arsenal right now, a jolt of confidence.
“Kayla is a quiet one, but she loves golf and she’s quietly very competitive,” Hill said. “She wants to do well and knows that she can.”
With regionals on the horizon, McKinney appears to be playing her best golf right now. Hill said if McKinney can replicate the low 90s rounds she’s shot recently, qualifying for the state tournament is within her grasp.
The key to doing that, McKinney said, is making putts and playing within herself.
“I need to keep my cool and hit good chips and putts,” she said.