This sports story didn’t make headlines — it slowly evolved at Washington High School over a very rainy spring. It is believed that for the first time in the school’s history, a girl made the boys golf team and completed season play.
The golf coach, Tim Buschmann, tweeted the news at the first match, a day fit only for ducks.
Though it poured for 18 holes and was difficult to keep her wet, slick club from flying out of her hands, Aubree Kitchell didn’t throw in the towel. This perky brunette with a smattering of freckles stayed tough throughout the season and is described as being persistent, gutsy and patient.
Aubree never complained about anything, Coach Buschmann said. She just showed up and “went right at it,” not expecting preferential treatment. Aubree didn’t miss a practice or a match, despite weather that would have kept many a pro in the clubhouse waiting for the clouds to clear.
A girly girl, freshman Aubree lauds her feminine side, likes stylin’ in golf skirts and hitting golf balls in a rainbow of colors.
“For Aubree it’s all about the bling,” her mom, Dawn Kitchell, said with a smile.
Bling might be her thing, but Aubree takes life on the links seriously, and didn’t blink an eye about hitting off the men’s tees. Sure Aubree was nervous — she admits that — but says she really liked playing, so she stuck with it. “I was just out there to have fun,” she said.
Aubree got her first taste of golf last summer in the junior program at Wolf Hollow golf course, where manager Doug Warden encouraged her, asking Mike Weirich, the pro there, to give her some tips. Aubree liked golf from the get-go and realized early it’s a “head game,” a very hard sport. She knew she’d have to talk to herself on the course, remain positive and not focus on bad shots.
Once school started, Bill Deckelman, athletic director at WHS, urged Aubree to go out for the team.
“She’s a neat kid,” Deckelman said, adding that all three of the Kitchell kids are — that would be older brother Tate, a sophomore, and soon to graduate college senior Bailey.
Deckelman believes high school offers students the opportunity to explore “bits and pieces” of things, classes, hobbies and sports. Sometimes there will be a fit, a new interest will develop — such was the case for Aubree.
A love of golf runs in her family. Her dad, Eric, plays, as do her grandparents from New Orleans. They couldn’t be prouder or happier that she’s taken up the game. Vince, her grandfather, regripped some clubs her grandmother Linda Kay used to play with, and Eric bought her a new driver and a golf bag to replace the old one that “embarrassed” her.
The day that school lets out for the summer, Aubree will head to New Orleans to stay with her grandparents. They’ve lined up a video lesson with a golf pro and lots of rounds and instruction on the golf course that borders their house. Then it will be back to Missouri and another summer of junior golf at Wolf Hollow.
Aubree also will be busy talking up golf with other girls. Deckelman hopes she’ll be a trailblazer, the sparkplug needed to get a girls team going at WHS in the coming years.
One can only hope that will happen and that their experiences will be as positive as Aubree’s. Sure the conditions weren’t golf-perfect this spring, but Aubree “improved from day one,” Coach Buschmann said.
“She was right in the mix with the other junior varsity players. Very few girls would have done what Aubree did — she has a good attitude and is patient in a male-dominated sport. The guys didn’t cut her any slack; you’re just one of them, one of the team.”
But the day of the first match, the varsity boys did something Aubree will never forget. She walked onto the bus, “and they clapped for me.”
To a frightened female freshman clad in Blue Jay blue, it was better than a one-putt green.