By JOSH MCDONALD
It isn’t usual that a sophomore is the clear cut leader of a high school varsity team, but Kat Rauenhorst is not a usual sophomore.
Last season, the freshman edition of Ms. Rauenhorst was scintillating as she led the Kellogg Wildcats to their program’s first state championship and the school’s first since 2005.
This year, Rauenhorst is looking to defend that title and is stepping into the role of team leader that could be the difference between repeating as champions or coming up short.
Rauenhorst’s journey to being Kellogg’s premier lady golfer began when she was still a toddler.
“I began playing when I was probably 3 or 4,” Rauenhorst said. “Everybody in my family plays, so it was natural for me to want to get out there and play too. The golf course really keeps me in it too. All of my friends and their parents who are involved make it easy to stay involved.”
Golf has been a good outlet for a person with a self admitted competitive nature.
“It’s competitive, but you also compete against yourself,” Rauenhorst said. “It’s a team sport, but there isn’t the kind of discrepancies that you deal with in other team sports.”
The ability to control your own destiny is one of Rauenhorst’s favorite things about golf, but she also is aware and appreciates how attitude is also a major factor.
“If you have a bad attitude or get down on yourself your game will reflect that,” Rauenhorst said.
That kind of awareness is unusual for someone who barely sixteen years of age (by the way, Happy Birthday!) and Rauenhorst has applied these kinds of philosophies into her leadership style.
“We are a fairly young team,” Rauenhorst said. “We have one senior, one junior, and four sophomores so we are definitely in a good place right now for the future.”
With the exception of one senior who chose not to return this year and the addition of a sophomore who decided to give golf another try this year, the team is nearly identical to last year’s.
That should scare people.
Not surprisingly, Rauenhorst is very aware of the mantle that she is now the bearer of, the Kellogg girls golf program has been known as one of the most consistent programs for the last two decades.
“I think a lot of our success comes from the fact that we really are golf community,” Rauenhorst said. “We have a lot of people here who play, we have a lot of places to play. It is part of our culture here.”
Rauenhorst hasn’t had the ability to get out much and play yet this season due to the abnormally long winter, but she hopes to get back to her regular self soon.
“I normally shoot in the mid 80’s to 90’s (per 18 holes),” Rauenhorst said.
Another sign of leadership is the ability to recognize the improvement and achievement of the people around you, something Rauenhorst is already excited about with her teammates.
“With Kaitlin (Miller, the senior who chose to not return) not playing this year we are going to need people to step up and so far we are definitely improving,” Rauenhorst said. “I have been really impressed with some of the girls. Emma (Bristow) has showed a lot of improvement, and I have been really impressed with Morgan (Nusz) so far this season. Last year she shot some higher scores on the team, but in our first match she actually finished one stroke better than me.”
One of the things that Rauenhorst does regularly to keep herself competitive is by playing against the uber talented Wildcat boys team.
“They hit the ball so far,” Rauenhorst said. “It takes them two shots to get on the green, where it might take me three and then I have to 1-put to stay competitive.”
Forcing herself to compete with boys who shoot scores in the 70’s makes Rauenhorst value every stroke.
“I lost to Chase (Jerome, Rauenhorst’s boyfriend and one of the top players on the boys team) by five strokes the last time we played.”
The combination of Rauenhorst, her teammates, and new (kinda) coach Simon Miller is one that Rauenhorst has a lot of confidence in.
“Last year with Carter (Wardwell, the former KHS golf coach) we did really well,” Rauenhorst said. “Coach Miller is able to take what we did with Carter and build off of it. So I think we may even do better.”
Speaking of coach Simon Miller, he had been the golf coach for a long time before stepping down from the position a few years ago, but when the position opened up again, the prospect of coaching a player of Rauenhorst’s talent made the decision that much easier.
“I have known Kat all of her life,” Miller, also a close friend of Rauenhorst family said. “When I retired from coaching golf, I knew she was going to be a good golfer. Getting back in the golf coaching role, sooner than I anticipated, and getting the chance to coach Kat was something that influenced my decision to return. Kat is a great leader despite being just a sophomore, and works hard at everything she does.”
Being’s that Miller is an educator himself, he also is a big fan of Rauenhorst’s performance as a student and her ability to stay positive in the presence of adversity.
“I'm particularly impressed at how Kat balances all of her sports (Volleyball, Basketball, Golf) and still excels in the classroom,” Miller said. “I also appreciate and enjoy Kat's sense of humor. She keeps things light, and doesn't dwell on the negative. These are all great traits to have in life, not just on the golf course.”