Alison Kennedy rising up to golf’s challenge

Alison Kennedy watches her shot from the fairway during a recent golf practice session. The Spearfish athlete won all eight junior tournaments she entered this summer and earned a state championship. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH — Spearfish’s Alison Kennedy won all eight of her tournaments during a South Dakota Golf Association junior season that ended July 27 with a state championship at Huron’s Broadland Creek course.

Kennedy fired an 18-hole 85 to win the girls’ 12-13 division by three shots over Mitchell’s Allison Meyerink.

“It was just a really fun experience to get to play at all those different courses,” said the 13-year-old Kennedy, who will be an eighth-grader at Spearfish Middle School this fall.

Kennedy also enjoyed being able to square off against the other competitors and have fun while doing so.

“I’m kind of weird in a way that I kind of like the pressure of having a lot of competition,” Kennedy said. “It makes me strive to play my best.”

The journey for Kennedy started June 8 at Red Rock and wound its way through Spearfish, Arrowhead, Meadowbrook, Hart Ranch, Southern Hills Golf Club, and the Elks course before ending at Huron. Victory margins ranged from one to 17 shots.

Kennedy encountered some pleasant surprises along the way.

She cited the Hart Ranch effort in which she shot better than 80 for the first time. Kennedy finished with an 18-hole 79.

“Just playing as well as I did through all the tournaments and being pretty consistent was nice, too,” she said.

Kennedy started with plastic golf clubs at age 2. She estimates she was 5 years old when she received her first set of metal clubs.

Golfing runs in the Kennedy family, with her parents (Scott and Dawn) heavily involved. Alison’s earliest memories centered on riding in a car seat on a golf cart.

The sport’s status as an individual endeavor appeals to Kennedy the most.

“You don’t have a team to blame if you mess up,” she said. “It helps build character.”

Kennedy said having to own up to mistakes helps a person improve as a player. She added she occasionally struggles to keep her emotions in check if she hits an errant shot.

She and her family try to visit the golf course two or three times per week, depending on her parents’ work schedule.

Kennedy said she does not really have a favorite course.

“I like Spearfish a lot because it’s my home course, and so I’ve just been playing it a lot,” Kennedy said.

Hart Ranch also appeals to Kennedy because it has some trees and a varied landscape.

Kennedy considers the long game to be her strongest aspect and can drive about 180 yards.

She competed in the state program in 2019, winning a couple of tournaments and earning a number of runner-up finishes.

“I’ve been able to play a lot more this year,” Kennedy said in describing the improvement she has made from the 2019 season to 2020. “My short game has really improved; my chipping is so much better this year.”

The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the last two months of school and limited students to online classes. In a sense, Kennedy benefited from this abrupt change in daily life.

“I was able to finish all my work by about Wednesday,” she said. “Then, I was able to go out Thursday and Friday since my dad wasn’t working immediately.

“Just being out on the course really helps you get the experience and improve by just playing.”

Kennedy would love to be on the Spartans’ high school team some day. She plans to try out for that squad next season and continue playing in the junior tournaments.

Her father and Tiger Woods rank as Alison’s favorite golfers.

“I can kind of relate to how he (Scott) plays because he’s kind of my coach,” she said. “His (Woods’) short game is so amazing, and I can really learn a lot just by watching him.”

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