When Megan Kinney was growing up, her father Scott wanted her to be involved at school with more than academics.
The Western Hills senior found her niche with golf, and today she is scheduled to start play in the Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac/KHSAA Girls State Golf Championships at the Bowling Green Country Club.
This is the third straight year Megan has competed in the state tournament, and this year she goes as a regional champion.
“I always wanted her to do something extracurricular,” Scott said. “She danced for awhile and she’s in the chorus, and then there’s golf. She loves golf; she even loves to practice.”
Scott knows something about the importance of extracurricular activities. A 1982 graduate of Frankfort High, he was a Kentucky all-star in the Kentucky-Indiana basketball series and went on to play college basketball at Rollins College, an NCAA Division II school in Winter Park, Fla.
As a child Megan played basketball and soccer, but recurring foot problems led to her doctor saying she needed to give up sports that required running and jumping.
Golf wasn’t in the picture until then.
“When I was younger I didn’t like golf,” Megan said. “I didn’t want to watch it; I thought it was boring. Then I had my foot problems, and I noticed my dad played a lot of golf.
“When I first played golf it just felt right. I fell in love with it.”
Megan’s grandfather Charles Kinney is also a golfer, and her uncle Greg Kinney, formerly a golf pro in Somerset, is now the boys golf coach at Southwestern High School in Pulaski County.
Despite the family’s love for the game, and athletics in general, Megan made the call on what she would play.
“I never really pushed her,” Scott said. “I wanted her to be involved with something, and I told her I’d support her. I’d go to her games or matches, I’d drive her to practice, but I never pushed her.”
But Scott has seen what the sport has done for Megan.
“It’s the discipline, the friends she meets and the opportunities she has,” he said. “She’s been able to travel across the U.S. and play golf, and she’s made friends all over the world. She played in a tournament with someone from Thailand and in another one with someone from Australia.
“The benefits outweigh the negatives.”
“Being part of something, a team or a club, you learn a lot about yourself,” she said. “That’s helped me grow up.”
Megan started playing golf the summer before seventh grade. She joined the WHHS golf team that fall and played on the varsity level.
“I was so young I didn’t realize what was happening,” Megan said. “I didn’t realize I was taking a spot on the team. I was going out to play golf, but that experience was so important to me being the golfer I am today.”
The way Megan handled that season convinced her parents she could make a go at golf.
“We were worried about the mental aspect of it,” said Scott, referring to himself and his wife, Robin. “The first time she played in a tournament was at Grant County, and she shot 135.
“I was scared to death. I told Robin we’d ruined her, that she wouldn’t want to play again, but Megan got in the back of the car and said, ‘that wasn’t too bad. I like this game.’
“After that I knew she’d be OK.”
And she has been. In her first state tournament as a sophomore, Megan missed the first-day cut by just two strokes. A year later she finished in the top 15, tied for 12th with a score of 161 (82-79).
“She’s worked hours and hours and hours to get better,” Scott said, “and she’s gotten better. Every year her scoring average has gone down.”
Now comes Megan’s final high school state tournament.
“My coach Larry Ward and I have been working,” she said, “and our motto is celebrate the rest of the year and my last tournament in high school golf. I’ll go in there and play one shot at a time.
“There’s no pressure. I’m not favored to win, so I’ll just go in there and see what place I come in.”
“I’m excited to see the state tournament,” Scott said. “At the regional tournament I was nervous and melancholy, but the state tournament is icing on the cake. I’m anxious to go down there and see where the chips may fall.”
And Megan knows her parents will be there every step of the way.
“I see some girls and their parents are riding them to do this or that, and I realize they’re not playing for themselves,” Megan said. “My parents always support me. They don’t care what I score. They want me to have fun and enjoy it.
“Now when I play golf I know 100 percent in my heart I play the game for me. I love it, and I’m not playing because someone else wanted me to.”