CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — McKayla Kerle is meticulous when it comes to her golf game.
(Pictured above, McKayla Kerle takes a swing off the tee/submitted photo)
The Clarion senior spends hours on and around the practice green. Making short putts and long putts. Chipping onto the green from different lies and in different conditions.
It’s all part of her process, one that produced back-to-back District 9 Class 2A individual championships.
And now an opportunity next year on the Clarion University (PennWest-Clarion) women’s golf team.
Kerle signed her national letter of intent last week to play for the Golden Eagles, a program that has made strides in the past several seasons.
Clarion coach Gregg Fritz is certainly pleased to be getting Kerle.
“I have been watching McKayla’s scores for the past couple of years, including being a two-time District 9 champion. I was there to watch her shoot 75 in the Happy Valley Invitational for a third place finish on a very difficult golf course and against a strong field. I saw that all aspects of McKayla’s golf game are very solid and impressive and can’t wait for her to bring them to Clarion.
“McKayla will make an immediate impact on our program.”
Kerle wasn’t a big fan of golf until she was 10. The rest of her family was very invested in the game.
Eventually, she came around. If the Kerle family had a family crest, it would almost certainly have a golf ball in it.
It didn’t take long for her to flourish. By the time she was a freshman at Clarion, her golf game was solid.
She was a third-team all-Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference selection in her first season in high school. She was second team all-conference as as sophomore and first team the last two seasons.
Kerle did all that while golfing on the boys team at Clarion, which does not have a girls’ program.
She had the third lowest scoring average among all KSAC boys golfers this season.
But at the PIAA Class 2A championships, Kerle suffered an unfortunate accident.
Another player struck her with a golf ball flush in the back during a practice round.
Kerle had trouble simply bending over to put her ball on the tee, let alone swinging a club, said Erie High golf coach Bruce Chase, who is also involved with the Great Lakes Junior Golf Tour, where Kerle plays — and excels — during the summer.
“Many contestants would have withdrawn. Not McKayla,” Chase said. “She made it through both tournament rounds of the championships. She wasn’t letting the pain stop her.”
The pain, however, affected her scores. Kerle shot a 90 in the opening round at Penn State and then closed with a 92 to finish 20th overall.
It wasn’t the end of her high school career that she had hoped.
Through it all, Kerle kept her college options open before finally deciding on Clarion.
Now she is focused on her future.
(McKayla Kerle, center, signs her national letter of intent to play golf at Clarion University. She is flanked by her father, Jay, and mother, Jackie/submitted photo)
Kerle, though, realizes she wouldn’t have made it this far without the support she has received from everyone around her, especially from her family — father, Jay, mother, Jackie, and younger brother, Kam.
“They have always pushed me to do my best and provided me with the tools and opportunities to get better,” McKayla said. “I especially want to thank my parents for putting my golf ahead of their own. They never hesitated taking time of work to drive my brother, Kam, and me to all the early morning, long distance golf tournaments. Having Kam as a brother … motivated me, as well as created quite the sibling rivalry. We feed off each other’s success on the golf course and it has brought us closer together over the past few years.
“I could not have gotten to where I am today without my family,” she added. “And I am grateful for their commitment to me.”
Dave McClaine of Clarion Sports Zone contributed to this story.