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Freshman Golfer Competes, Succeeds in No. 1 Spot
By Annalise Venhuizen

Throughout the women’s golf season, freshman Kelli Visser established herself as Calvin’s No. 1 golfer and stepped up to meet the demands of competition at the college level.

Kelli Visser Head ShotWith only one golfer returning from last season, Calvin’s golf team — made up of three freshmen, two sophomores and one junior — lacked numbers and collegiate experience. A graduate of Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian High School, where she was used to playing as the No. 3 or No. 4 golfer, Visser lacked experience for her new role at the new level.

“There was more pressure involved with playing against girls in the No. 1 spots on their teams,” said Visser, noting the differences between competing in high school and college. “Golf is such a mental game, and it was hard to block out that I was playing against athletes who were excellent and serious golfers.” In addition, Visser said that the distance and difficulty of the courses also increased.

But Visser welcomed the pressure and consistently improved her game throughout the course of the season. At the third MIAA outing in early October, she finished with a round of 90. Later that same week, she tied for fifth at the Sienna Heights Invitational with her collegiate-best finish of 88 strokes.

Visser ended the season with a round of 99, playing in wet and chilly conditions at the MIAA tournament, placing her 31st in the league with an average of 99.3 strokes per round. “It was nice to get good individual scores, to see the scores going down, to feel that the time I put in is paying off,” Visser said.

Coming off of her late-season success, Visser looks forward to further possible competition this spring. She plans on using the time to practice and improve her individual game in anticipation of next fall. “I love going out to the range and hitting balls,” Visser said. “Putting and short game have always been trouble for me. That’s where scoring happens, where you can win or lose strokes, so I hope to improve that aspect of my game.”

Kelli VisserThe season encouraged Visser not only of her ability to compete as a college athlete but also of her ability to balance the demands of a student athlete. “I thought it was going to be hard to keep up on my academics while playing a sport, but this fall I realized that it is possible,” Visser said.

But there are two other reasons for Visser’s eagerness for the next season: her teammates and her passion for the sport.

“When I look back on the season,” Visser said, “I see all of the good times the team had together. We bonded so well; it was satisfying to see a team become so close.” When asked about the improvements she wishes for the team, Visser again emphasized the closeness of the team: “We can always look for improvement in score, but I really couldn’t ask for a better team.”

For Visser, golf has always been an avenue for forming relationships. She started to play golf in eighth grade, her dad bribing her with driving the cart if she would come with him. “That’s how I got out on the golf course,” Visser said. Then she borrowed a set of clubs from a neighbor and started hitting balls. “It was a good way for my dad and me to spend quality time together,” Visser said.

Golf soon became a personal interest for Visser: “I play golf because I love it; I have such a passion for the game. Though I don’t play for my dad, it reminds me of him. When I play, I think, ‘My dad would be so proud.’”

Her father would certainly be proud of Visser’s most memorable individual moment of the season. “I had one shot this season that I was ecstatic about,” Visser said. “It was a 7-iron 140 yards into the green. I stuck it within 3 or 4 feet for birdie.”