by Chris Hunt

Rarely does a day pass without Katie Kirk working on her golf swing.

The North Mecklenburg star lives near the River Run Country Club, so she gets plenty of work on the course or the driving range, hitting roughly 100 balls every day.
And if the weather doesn’t cooperate?

No worries. Kirk has a golf net in the garage so she can tweak her form, regardless of the weather, to keep her swing consistent.

“I hit golf balls almost every day to keep the muscle memory,” said Kirk. “A couple of years ago (as a sophomore), I took two or three weeks off, and I couldn’t get back my swing. It took a while to feel natural and to have confidence in it. It felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.

“I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”

There are days when Kirk’s driver doesn’t make it out of the bag, but her short game gets daily work. Her accuracy around the greens was the key to her winning the only girls golf player-of-the-year awards in the I-MECK 4A conference’s two-year history.

During the 2010 season, she averaged 34.5 swings per nine holes in league play. She went on to finish second in the Class 4A state tournament, her second consecutive top-five finish in the event.

She’s also the 2010 Lake Norman-Area Girls Golfer of the Year.

But preparing to be a successful golfer has come at a price. Originally, the Kirk family set up their golf net in the family basement, where she spent hours as a freshman and sophomore crushing golf balls. Her mother, Mo, eventually got used to the noise coming from the basement.

But when Kirk grew an inch or two before her junior season, the basement ceiling and light fixture were suddenly in danger. Kirk’s looping swing eventually took chunks out of the ceiling. After three or four “accidents,” her mom decided to find a new location for her daughter’s indoor practice sessions.

“I had to move the net because she was taking down the house,” Mo said with a  laugh. “I had to sacrifice a garage bay to do it, but if she didn’t have the net, she could miss a whole week during the winter when it snows.”

These days, Kirk has even more reason to practice. Next fall, she will join East Carolina University’s golf team on a full scholarship. She chose the Pirates after considering offers from Auburn and UNC Wilmington.

Kirk also set the goal of qualifying for the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship this August in Rhode Island. Kirk said she missed last year’s cut in a Charlotte qualifier by only a stroke or two, so she feels she’s got a better chance with another year under her belt.

You can bet every day until then, she’ll be working on her swing.