Updated: Jan 29
Kate Smith is no stranger to the Minnesota golf community. In high school, she played for the Detroit Lakers and won 5 Minnesota State Championships, her first one at just age 13. Now in her junior year at Lincoln, Nebraska, Kate is holding 7 individual records.
As an inspiration to so many young females, Her Next Play sat down with Kate to learn more about the skills and lessons she’s learned on and off the course.
As a Big 10 athlete, can you tell me about like your typical day?
I'll take you through like typical Monday for me:
We have workouts at 6:30 those go for about an hour.
We go to class from 8:30 -12:30 pm.
Take lunch then drive out to the course.
Typically, I am at the course from 1- 4 pm.
Then usually get back to campus and have meetings from 4- 5 pm.
Dinner is with the team from 5-6 pm.
And then possibly tutoring sessions from like 6-8 pm.
It’s a busy schedule, but it comes with a lot of rewards.
What are the key skills playing collegiate sports have helped you develop?
I think time management is a huge thing. Prioritizing and just knowing what to put most of your time into what you want to succeed in. I think the value of hard work is enormous.
Just seeing what you get after you dedicate a lot of time to something is pretty amazing.
Conflict resolution as another big one, I'm a junior on the team, and I was put into a leadership role pretty early. Resolving conflicts between team members is something that I've never been involved in, but this last year I have. It's working with people, understanding what they're going through, getting a whole group to work together and get along. That has been an enormous learning opportunity for me.
Who is your main role model when playing sports?
I'd have to say, my brother.
I'd love to say I had a female role model, but it's kind of tough in athletics when most of our role models are male. So I look up to my brother and how he handled himself on and off the golf course and how hard he worked. Seeing just how much people look to him as a leader and as a good person. He's somebody who was respected not solely based off his sport, and that was a big thing for me.
If I wasn't the best person on the golf course that day, I was going to try to be the nicest person on the course, and that's something I learned from my brother.
Were there any hard lessons that you had to learn through golf or on your transition from high school to college?
I think my sophomore year was kind of the hardest. I knew I had success in junior golf, went into college as a freshman and also played really well. I set a lot of high stakes for myself.
Then going into sophomore year, having all those expectations on you, I was used to that, but for 6 years in a row, I had really high expectations on me. The pressure that I put on myself it just kind of shook all the fun out of the sport for me for a little bit. I was so worried about the outcome, and I forgot why I was playing the sport. I think about it like a scary place to be in. I always had to remind myself why I'm playing instead of worrying about not disappointing people and myself.
How did you transition out of tough times when expectations were high?
I just kind of changed a lot of stuff. I read books about the mental side of golf, and I started meditating. It was a lot of lifestyle changes and a lot of work with identity. I know we all identify in our sport which is awesome because we take a lot of pride in it but knowing at the end of the day you're not defined by your performance in your sport. You are characterized by a lot of things that make the person you are, so finding that balance. I think every college athlete probably goes through that.
What skills do you see kids developing through sports and golf in particular?
At our family’s golf camp, we teach about 200 kids a week, and it's been really rewarding because I think golf is pretty special. You get to see kids like getting taught these specific life skills that you can't really find in other sports. I mean we don't have referees so being taught at such a young age how to be respectful, play on the honor system, being there for each other like saying ‘nice shot’ and taking the flag stick out of the hole. Those little things can teach you how to be respectful when you're like seven and eight years old, and it is really cool to watch.
I think sports, in general, are fantastic for kids because I think it's a huge equalizer between children. It doesn't matter where you came from or how much money you have or what clothes you wear. It's the talent you have while you're playing and how much work you put into it. Definitely seeing my friends grow up sports, there's just huge respect when you know that person is playing a sport and go through being on a team and dealing with everything that comes with that.
What are your future plans?
I definitely have aspirations to keep playing golf after college. It looks that I have the potential to play. However, I do have a year and a half left of college. So pretty much anything can happen. I am also pursuing a degree in graphic design, and I do design. But I think the golf industry is where I'll end up just because of how much it's been a big part of my life.
The biggest thing I stress to the girls I teach is how many opportunities sports can bring girls. The scholarships out there today and everything, it's just a huge opportunity to find success and joy in something. Even though sports might not be cool or you might have to skip certain social activities, the outcome you get from playing sports is going to be much more rewarding in the end.