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Tourneys will help Casey County's Warner

August 11, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

LIBERTY -- As the leader of the Casey County girls golf team, Kelli Warner wants to be the best teammate she can be. But there will also be times during her final high school season when she will have to leave her teammates behind.

Warner will be on her own on a number of occasions during the coming season, as she plans to play in top-flight invitational tournaments from Morehead to Bowling Green.

They are the kind of tournaments that could help her earn statewide recognition this season and perhaps a college scholarship for next season and beyond.

"I'm going to be in a lot of individual tournaments just to get all-state points," she said.

The young Casey team would be overmatched in those tournaments, but Warner's game is more than good enough to allow her to hold her own against strong fields, as evidenced by some of her performances this summer.

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The highlights included a second-place finish in her flight in her first appearance in the Women's State Amateur, a top-five finish in the Junior State Amateur and two good rounds in a national junior tournament last week.

And while Warner closed her summer schedule on a sour note, she didn't let that eclipse the good things she had done.

"Before that I played really well," Warner said. "I think this summer has prepared me for the high school season."

Looking forward to next slate of tournaments

Now Warner is looking forward to the next slate of tournaments, which began Saturday - just two days after she missed the first day of school to finish her last junior tournament - with a high school invitational in Frankfort.

Her schedule will also take her to Louisville Christian's invitational at the challenging Polo Fields course in Louisville, the Kentucky Invitational Tournament at Morehead and invitationals hosted by Bowling Green and Pulaski Southwestern.

One of Warner's best performances came in June when she tried match play golf for the first time at the Women's State Am. She missed qualifying for the championship flight by one stroke, but she went on to finish as the runner-up in the first flight.

"I really enjoyed match play," she said. "And I was really happy that I got put in the first flight because it gave me more confidence."

A few weeks later, Warner shot 75-80-79 in the Junior State Amateur at Fort Knox to finish in the top five.

Last week she shot 76 and 79 in the first two rounds of the American Junior Golf Association's Kroger Junior Invitational at Batavia, Ohio. She was tied for second after 18 holes but finished in a tie for 16th place after shooting 94 in the final round. She said that round wasn't as hard to swallow after she had three good rounds on the course.

"I wasn't really upset, because I'd had three good days straight," she said. "I was really tickled with that, with my consistency."

Warner said she has been working on becoming more consistent with her woods and long irons as she prepares to play longer courses than she's accustomed to in high school.

"That's what I need to work on for college," she said.

She said she has "made some contacts" with college coaches in recent weeks, but she hasn't carved out a short list of schools yet.

"I'm looking toward my education more than golf, because I know I'm not going to go pro," she said. "I'm looking at all my options."

She enjoys being part of a team

Meanwhile, she's looking forward to the matches with her team after playing solo all summer.

"I have a lot of fun with them," Warner said. "They're a blast, and they keep me going when I get down."

Warner, who finished 24th in the state tournament last year, is the only senior on the Casey roster, which places her in an obvious position of leadership.

"I know I'm one of the leaders on the team, and I try to encourage them," she said.

Casey's second-best player is a seventh-grader, Natalie Wesley, who also played in a number of junior tournaments this summer.

"She's really coming on strong," Warner said. "My team is young, but they're going to get a lot better over the next couple of years."

The high school golf season is a short one, and Warner's other favorite game, basketball, will be in season soon enough. She spent a share of her summer playing with the Casey basketball team, but for now hoops is on the back burner.

"Right now it's all golf," she said. "I think this summer really prepared me for the high school season."

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