CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Xavier golfer Kimmy Askelson had a successful junior year.
She became Xavier’s first state qualifier and placed fourth in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Class 4A state tournament at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny last year.
After dedicating herself in the offseason, the Saints senior is striving for bigger accomplishments as the prep golf season opens this week. Spring competition includes four classes for girls and 1A, 2A and 3A classes for boys with 4A competing in the fall.
Askelson, who signed in November to play next year at Drake University, has big expectations.
”I think I can do even better,” Askelson said. “I’ve been working really hard this winter, getting stronger and getting my swing down. My swing is like in perfect shape, even better than at the end of last year.
“I definitely wanted to start this season off just where I left it last year.”
Askelson devoted herself to obtaining a more consistent swing and being physically stronger. She worked with her swing coach, Dustin Miller, every couple weeks and dissected “a lot” of video. She also increased her strength training regimen, looking to gain some muscle during the offseason. The extra work has led to a simple answer to what she needs for improved achievements.
“Just confidence,” Askelson said. “I’ve got the swing so I just need to be confident over the ball.”
Xavier Coach Julie Kadlec said Askelson proved she could compete on the same level as the state’s top golfers last spring. Kadlec complimented Askelson’s driving ability, but said she shines when she gets closer to the green.
“I think she’s really strong off the tee, but she has really worked to perfect her short game,” Kadlec said. “I think that’s where she really gains a lot of strokes on opponents.”
Health also helps, and Askelson is starting the season better physically than she finished a year ago. Askelson suffered a torn calf muscle late in the season, needing a medical exemption for a cart during some competitions. She battled through to not only to make history at Xavier, but was as high as second after the opening round of the 2010 state tournament and earn 4A first-team honors from the Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association.
She was happy with the high finish of 75-79-154, which was four shots back of champion Katie Purcell of Ames, considering she was unsure what the strain of 18 holes of competition on consecutive days would bring. She persevered and continued to do well.
“I’ve never given up on anything and my parents taught me to push through everything and give it all you can,” Askelson said of her parents, Bob and Terry Askelson. “I just had to give it my all and I really wanted to make my parents proud.”
The injury was a learning experience for Askelson, who was the medalist at last year’s CRANDIC meet. She has changed how she prepares for rounds, focusing on proper hydration and warming up her muscles.
“I didn’t realize how a person can injure themselves when they play until I tore my calf,” Askelson said. “Now, it’s a lot of strengthening.”
The effort stems from a strong love of the game that transferred from father to daughter. Askelson said she started swinging a club at age 5 and then being playing junior tournaments a few years later. The sport allowed them to bond and then her potential began to take form.
“I grew a passion,” Askelson said. “We enjoyed played and realized it was something that I liked and someday I could get better at so I just kept with it. I’ve always just tried to keep improving my scores.”
That experience allows her to know exactly what she needs to work on when a round doesn’t go well. She has been around long enough to identify trouble areas when they arise on the course.
“That’s what has helped her so much,” Kadlec said. “She is knowledgeable enough to know what she needs to work on.
“She’s very strong academically as well. It’s her personality that she wants to do well with whatever she focuses in on and golf has been her love since she was just a little kid.”
Now that little kid will be leading a bunch “kids” on a young Saints roster. Askelson is the lone senior on the Xavier team and is join by Taylor Wertzberger, who is the Saints’ only junior. She relishes the challenge, saying she expected up to three freshmen in the starting six.
“I’m actually really excited about it,” Askelson said. “A lot of good talent. They’re going to be really good.”
She has been a strong leader for the Saints, and Kadlec said Askelson embraces that role with open arms. She always encourages teammates as they come off the course, offering help, advice or providing a pat on the back, according to Kadlec.
“It’s never been about Kimmy,” Kadlec said. “She’s been there for the team and she wants to do her part to help the team.”
Probably even better than last year.