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Van Meter is girls golf player of the year

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: December 8, 2013 at 02:40 PM

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Many times, prep student/athletes are nomadic. Each is searching for their identity not just in a team sport, but often times in the complicated and unyielding frame of individual sports.

The reason is simple. Not every athlete is an offensive lineman. You know the type.

O-linemen are the guys that do all the dirty work in obscurity. There is little or no ROI (return on investment) when constantly getting double-teamed and someone else grabs the headlines.

One such athlete that was looking for her niche was this year's Hernando Today Girls Golf Player of the Year, Springstead senior Kylie Van Meter.

Van Meter, 17, is the oldest of three children to Spring Hill's Dave and Lynn Van Meter.

She was born in Orlando before the family relocated to Indiana. It was there she began playing volleyball.

The moving vans arrived shortly thereafter. The Van Meters have called Spring Hill home since Kylie's seventh-grade year.

Once the Van Meters relocated to Hernando County, she gravitated toward volleyball at Brooksville's Hernando Christian Academy.

Immersing herself in athletics within the tiny Class 1A program, Van Meter played volleyball as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

She quickly transitioned to basketball and even played junior varsity softball.

"I always was athletic," described Van Meter. "It was my decision to play. In a small school, you could play a bunch of sports."

Soon Van Meter's academic growth took center stage.

Springstead's IB (international baccalaureate) program enticed the budding aeronautical engineer.

Hitting the books is a fulltime gig. Van Meter carries a current 3.82 unweighted and 4.5 weighted grade point average on the Mariner Boulevard campus.

She's looking at attending Daytona Beach's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

To fill her passion for athletics, Van Meter played varsity softball - for a cup of coffee worth of 18 games - for two seasons along with JV volleyball and basketball.

Prior to her sophomore year, Van Meter felt unfulfilled.

"At the time, I was the type of athlete that loved playing sports, but never loved one sport enough to become great at it," described the 5-foot-4 Van Meter. "I wanted to take my time in one sport and excel in it. I'm an aggressive player. I was looking for something that I was really good at."

Van Meter recalls "talking with my dad one day about finding a sport to help me balance my academic course load," she recalled. "At the time, we were in South Carolina on a small par-3 course. We went out and I hit a few shots and found out I was actually decent.

"Right before the season, I emailed Coach (Kathleen) Long and asked her, 'When were tryouts?'

"What's weird," recalled Van Meter. "Before that tryout, I hadn't met any of the girls on the team or ever hit a bucket of balls."

Dialing back her initial steps in the sport, "Like anything else it was difficult," said Van Meter. "It didn't matter that I had pretty good hand-and-eye coordination, it was hard going out there and practicing - not really knowing what I was doing.

"I was fortunate to be on a team surrounded by great players. There was no real pressure on me at all. I could learn the game at my pace," she said. "No one expected me to be a medalist."

In her first-ever round at the immaculate World Woods Golf Club, Van Meter finished six holes and was "credited" with a nine-hole 58 total.

"I remember finishing about six holes. I told myself not to worry about it," recalled Van Meter. "There was no reason to get upset."

According to Van Meter, there was no sense of urgency.

"The girls on the team welcomed me in and they didn't shrug me," admitted Van Meter. "We grew to be really close and we all became good friends. Looking back, it was very important for me to be comfortable right from the beginning."

She completed her first varsity season fourth on the team in scoring at 60.6 strokes per nine holes.

In front of her stood teammates Megan Berube (39.0), Emma Betters (53.9) and Kiki Schau (54.8).

Despite being a first-year player, Van Meter finished ninth overall in the local circuit in scoring.

"Back then all I was trying to do was break 60 (for nine holes)," she said. "It seemed every time I'd get close, I'd hit the trees on one of my last two holes.

"In other sports, you can channel your anger to help your game. In golf, you have to go out and play as relaxed as you can," analyzed Van Meter. "If you don't, you keep worrying and fussing about shots."

Following her sophomore season, Van Meter stopped playing other sports to concentrate on her golf game.

Upon placing all her eggs in one basket, she began her ascent on the links.

"I went out to the golf course practically every day," she recalled. "I'd hit three buckets of balls every day. I have to admit all that practice time really helped me in lowering my scores."

As a junior, Van Meter remarkably dropped her average almost 12 strokes from the year before to 48.9.

She had progressed enough to finish third on a loaded Springstead team that stretched its unbeaten dual-meet streak to 28 matches in a row.

For her efforts, Van Meter finished as the county's sixth-ranked player in the final scoring honor roll.

"What really helped was playing better with my short game," detailed Van Meter. "I definitely wanted to improve. It helped knowing I could."

In 2013, the team dynamic changed with the four-time Hernando Today Player of the Year Berube moving on to Indiana State, the three-time All-County selection Betters graduating and Long stepping down as mentor.

"When I first started golf, I was so concerned with not screwing things up for the other girls," explained Van Meter. "But we were so strong, I had room to grow. This year was different. It was up to me and Kiki (Schau), we had no one else to pick up the slack. I knew I had to step up my game."

Van Meter continued to cook. She responded in her third season - under rookie skipper Bill Vonada - by not only leading the team in scoring, but the county with a career-best 47.8. To do that she solved the three-time All-County selection Schau (48.7).

With her season on the line during the Class 2A, District 13 Tournament at Silverthorn Country Club, Van Meter agonizingly tied Schau for medalist honors with identical 18-hole 97s.

In a match of cards, the fourth-year Schau earned the coveted medalist honor edging Van Meter on the fourth tiebreaker.

Though she finished second overall, Van Meter earned a trip to her third straight regional tournament.

"I was definitely nervous after finishing up at Heritage Springs," recalled Van Meter. "I wasn't going to beat myself up if I didn't make it (to states), so I wasn't really too concerned. I remember we had to wait for a long while because I was in one of the first groups to finish.

"I really wasn't expecting to go (to states). It was a complete shock when they called my name," she said.

Behind her 18-hole, 13-over-par 85, Van Meter had qualified for the FHSAA's elite stage, the 64th annual 2A state finals at Howey-in-the-Hills' Mission Inn.

Van Meter was the lone Hernando County participant at the prestigious Lake County event.

She finished the grueling two-day, 36-hole event along the Las Colinas course with a 49-over-par, 98-95-193 total. All told, she finished 66th in the elite 94-player field.

It didn't matter that she couldn't duplicate Berube's 14th-place effort from three years earlier.

"When I got to states, I knew I was playing with the best. Realistically, when only Kiki and I represented Springstead in districts, I had no idea I'd eventually make it past districts," recalled Van Meter. "Looking back, I was happy with how it went."

On what her future holds, "I'd love to play in college," said Van Meter. "But my education comes first and foremost. I'm looking for a balance (between academics and athletics). If I don't get a golf scholarship, I'll pick a good school and attempt to walk on.

"I started playing sports in Indiana looking for something I was great at. Something I could see tangible results - I'm fortunate to have found that with golf."

Coach Vonada said he was fortunate to have two outstanding student/athletes in his rookie campaign with Schau and Van Meter.

On the unanimous selection of Van Meter as the Player of the Year, "Kylie steadily improved and peaked at the right time. Not bad for someone who's only played the game for three years. For her to pick up the sport and eventually reach states in three seasons says a lot about her competitive nature and work ethic. . She's improved the most in her short game," described Vonada.

"I was truly excited when I heard the (POY) news," said Van Meter. "My mind drifts back to the beginning. I never thought I'd find a sport like golf, it's my home."

Van Meter credits her father's influence in lifting her game, saying, "Dad encouraged me the most. He helped me with my swing and I couldn't have improved without his help."

On how she's gone full-circle on the links, "I was ridiculed by my friends on the volleyball and basketball teams when I told them I was going out for golf. They told me golf was such a lame sport and why should I waste my time? They'd say you're really going out for golf? Really?" recalled Van Meter. "There was a lot of peer pressure.

"I suggest you take the sport as it comes," advised Van Meter. "Don't worry about every shot you take - that's a vicious cycle. If you have a bad shot, who's to say the next shot won't be better?"

By the numbers: Springstead's Kylie Van Meter in 2013

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


Central Hernando Oaks (9) 48

Weeki Wachee World Woods (9) 44

Nature Coast Silverthorn CC (9) 48

Hernando Silverthorn CC (9) 48

Crystal River World Woods (9) 49

Weeki Wachee World Woods (9) 49

Nature Coast World Woods (9) 52

Central World Woods (9) 52

Hernando World Woods (9) 48

2A-13 Tourney Silverthorn CC (18) 47-50-97

2A-V Tourney Palm Harbor GC (18) 42-43-85

2A State Finals Mission Inn (36 holes) 98-85-193

TOTALS 47.8^

^ Denotes Hernando county scoring champion.

By the numbers: Springstead Kylie Van Meter

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2011 9 16 60.6

2012 6 11 48.9

2013 1 17 47.8

TOT 5 34 52.4

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