Summer Kitahara approaches the golf tee of the fourth hole at Longue Vue Club. “Hmmm,” she thinks, visualizing the ideal shot. “Narrow fairway, dogleg left with a bunker that isn’t visible. Better pull back.”
Kitahara, co-captain of Carnegie Mellon’s women’s golf team, is in the midst of a practice round. The freshman computer science major is preparing for the spring’s University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships in Sorrento, Fla., where she and her teammates will compete. Being on a golf course—about seven miles from campus—is a much welcomed break from her hectic daily routine: classes, homework, and student athletic advisory council meetings, just for starters.
Her golf ball sails about 200 yards before settling in the middle of the par 5 fairway, just as she envisioned. Pulling a five iron from her bag, she knows she better be smart about this next shot, focus on placement as well as distance, because deep bunkers and trees beckon from all sides.
Such challenges aren’t new to her. As a high school junior, she had to prove herself in competition at Rye Country Day School, which is about five miles from her family’s home in Greenwich, Conn. During Rye’s golf season that year, she faced the top-ranked women’s golfer from Rye’s arch-rival, the Greenwich Academy Gators. Kitahara defeated the senior, which caught the attention of several collegiate golf teams.
Whoosh. Kitahara’s ball lands just beyond the left fairway bunker, exactly where it needs to be so she can have an ideal approach shot to the green.
Being in the right place at the right time has been a knack for Kitahara. She’s one of seven all-freshmen members of the CMU women’s golf team that is competing at the NCAA intercollegiate level in its inaugural 2014-15 season. Speaking like a true student-athlete, Kitahara says she chose CMU over about a dozen schools, for the School of Computer Science.
Taking out her wedge, she lines up her next shot, fully aware that missing the green long could result in trouble where unplayable terrain is looming.
Swish. The ball lands 10 feet from the pin, leaving a makeable birdie putt.
During last fall’s season, she had plenty of other good shots. She earned UAA Women’s Golf Athlete of the Week honors after helping lead the Tartans to the program’s first three tournament titles: the Grove City College Fall Invitational, the Thiel College Invitational, and the Saint Vincent Invitational.
Overall, she had the best average score among her teammates in the fall semester’s five collegiate tournaments, and she entered the spring season ranked in the top 10% nationally for Women’s Division III golfers.
Kitahara says she and her teammates have high hopes for the spring season and for the future of the program. “We bonded with all the struggles of just being freshmen. And now the CMU golf team is here
The team’s head coach, Dan Rogers, agrees: “Those who come after will have to fill some big shoes.”
Kitahara drains the birdie putt.