DUBLIN — Kayla Thompson has played a lot of golf on a lot of courses. She also look at a number of colleges to further her career on the links.
But she knew almost from the start exactly where she wanted to take her talents.
On Monday, Thompson — a senior at West Bladen High — signed to play her collegiate golf with the lady Seahawks of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
“”I’m real excited about playing for UNCW,” said Thompson, who also gave some consideration to N.C. State and East Carolina. “I love the school, and I can’t ask for a better college golf coach.”
Thompson’s talents are extensive on the golf course, especially since she began playing with the Knights. She won the 2012 Class 2-A East Region championship, turned in a 77 stroke average as a junior, was named a Waccamaw Conference first-team player as a junior and second-team player as a sophomore — all while competing against the boys, since West Bladen does not have a girls team.
“I think playing against the guys has helped prepare me for the next level,” Thompson said. “It helped push me harder.”
Her coaches agree.
“Absolutely it helped her,” said Phillip Penny, who has been Thompson’s high-school coach since last season. “And I’m happy for her, she’s earned this. She works hard and is very dedicated — plus she’s a real good person.”
This past summer, Thompson fired her first sub-par rounds while playing with Penny. She shot a 71 at Forest Oaks in Greensboro and then carded a 65 at Fairmont.
“Playing against the kind of competition she’s used to here, Kayla can definitely handle the next step,” said Junior Nance, who coached Thompson her first two years at West Bladen. “Her key to success will be her short game, but she’s been working hard on it and I think she understands her potential now.”
Thompson, who plans to major in either exercise science or chemistry with the hopes of becoming a pharmacist, also has aspirations beyond collegiate golf.
“If college golf goes well, I hope to progress through the ranks to the LPGA,” she said.
She added that her experience at West Bladen, so far, has helped keep her focused.
“Coach Nance really helped prepare me early and Coach Penny has kept me focused on that next level,” Thompson said.
Penny said UNCW should be perfect for Thompson.
“It ought to be a real good fit,” he said. “She will blend right in and be a major contributor soon. She’s has a few scratch golfers to help her along the way — like her father, uncle and Coach Nance. I haven’t messed with anything about her game except the mental part, and I think she’s got that now.”
Penny said he expects Thompson will be the Knights’ No. 1 player this spring.
Thompson is the daughter of Travis and Sheila Thompson.