Captains’ Corner: Sophie Kitchen ’17

Sophie Kitchen ’17. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Team:

Womens golf

Hometown:

Collingwood, Ontario, Canada

Residence:

Perry House

Major:

Chemistry

Snack bar order:

Nachos with mozzarella, pesto and sausage

When and why did you start playing golf?

I started playing golf when I was 12 years old because my dad forgot to sign me up for summer programs. They were all full, and I was really bored, so I was doing nothing and followed my parents to the golf course. They had just joined, so I didn’t really know anyone, but I started hitting balls, and it was really fun. I met some boys and tried to beat them. Then I did, and that got me hooked. My mom was really scared about putting me in tournaments because she thought I would get discouraged. I didn’t play in my first tournament until I was 15. She was super worried that I would get last, but I ended up getting second. I figured I was decent at it, so I continued to play. Then I was on the provincial team for three years, from ages 16 to 18. 

What was it like to play for the Ontario team?

It made me get a lot better. It was a government pilot program, and they were preparing for the Rio Olympics. We had unbelievable funding from the Canadian government – we had a mental coach and a physical trainer. There was a fee, but it wasn’t substantial, considering that we got two trips. The first year I went to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with the lower team. The next year, I joined the upper team and went to Arizona, which was great for developing as a player.   

Did anyone influence you in particular during those years?

My head coach on the Ontario team when I joined the U19 team my second year was unbelievable. He was a philosophy major in college and just started playing golf. He was a very purposeful person, and golf changed my entire personality. I used to be kind of aggressive and a lot more emotional, and I remember he watched me play, and I cried. It was common for junior players to cry because it’s a pretty emotional sport. He was just so calm and taught me how to manage my emotions better. It took a while to impact the rest of my life, but I think I did eventually get there.

Why did you decide to attend the College?

I transferred to Williams halfway through my sophomore year. I was at the University of Minnesota and playing Div. I golf there. There were a few issues with Minnesota, but mostly the academics were really conflicting with my athletics, and my coaches wanted me to make a choice between them. I decided to commit myself more to academics. My sister was going to Middlebury, and she suggested that I apply to the NESCAC schools for better balance. And I got into Williams!

What are your favorite things about the team?

When it’s a special day for someone, like when it’s someone’s birthday, everyone remembers and will be there for you. At the same time, if you do something wrong – if you show up late for practice or get really overwhelmed with school – there’s this level of respect on the team, and we’re very understanding of each other. We’ve seen each other at our best and worst, and we’re very supportive. That’s what I didn’t have at my last school. It’s very unique to the team now. 

What is it like to play for Coach Adalsteinsson?

He reminds me a lot of my favorite coach from when I was in high school. He is extremely calm and very thoughtful. He has a master’s degree in sports psychology and is very knowledgeable, but he is also just a very nice person to talk to. I can be honest with him. Even if I’m on the course and playing terribly, I can tell him, and he keeps my emotions in check and responds in a productive way.

How has your game developed over four years at college?

I don’t know how consistent I’ve been. It’s really hard because I’ve had three different coaches in college, so my game has gone on a rollercoaster. Mentally, I have definitely matured a lot. I play golf now because I really love it. I think that’s something I struggled with in the middle years of college. 

In golf, one bad hole can spoil your entire performance. How do you manage that pressure?

I think I’ve just been playing golf for so long that there have been so many holes and so many bad holes, so nothing seems that new. I’ve been in a lot of really bad places in golf – I’ve lost balls, and I’ve hit into water, into trees or behind trees. Every round is different, but there are definitely patterns that you see. I always try to stay calm and go one hole at a time. I am well known on the team for having a very short memory, so I completely forget about things quickly and just go on to the next hole or shot. 

How has your experience been as a captain?

I really like being captain. It’s fun to make the rules. I think that the team seems to respond well to our level of leadership. [Co-captain] Tracy [Kim ’17] and I are a bit different, so we meet a lot of everyone’s needs. We don’t set a lot of hard rules – we just trust everyone on the team, so there’s a lot of accountability that everyone seems to appreciate, and I think we’ve had a lot of success. 

Golf seems like a very individual sport. How do you maintain team spirit?

When we’re on the course, we’re very individual – you don’t see your teammates that much. Before we get out there and after rounds, we have certain routines and traditions. Before every tournament, we do “cows,” our team huddle that is special to us. When we’re on the course, if you make a birdie, you signal to the person ahead or behind you by flapping your arms, which is funny and raises team spirit. After the round, we always do “shots” – not of alcohol! We tell our best shot of the day, which brings your teammates back into the round with you. Even if you have a bad day, you always have one good shot.

Last year, you earned All-American Scholar Honors from the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. What do such accolades mean to you?

I think it’s nice to get awards. I don’t think about them much in season, but it’s an affirmation that I’m doing good things. 

What is your favorite course to play on?

My favorite course is the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. My uncle is a member there. I’ve played it only once, but the day we went was the day before it opened. Nobody was on the course, but we drove from Atlanta – I think he may have done it on purpose. They let us out a day early, and there were no divots in the entire course. It was so perfect. The grass gave your ball a perfect lie every time. We each had a caddy, and playing with a caddy is the most amazing way to play golf because you don’t have to do anything but play. You don’t have to carry your bag or rake bunkers, so it was magical. It was 100 percent the best day of my life. The course was so beautiful and secluded in the middle of nowhere. 

What are your plans for next year?

I am going to get a master’s degree in epidemiology and public health at the University of British Columbia. 

Who is your favorite professional golfer and why?

Brooke Henderson. She is from Ontario, and I actually used to play with her sometimes. She would always beat me. She was ranked No. 2 in the world. I think her ranking is around No. 7 now, and she’s only 19. She’s unbelievably good and from close to where I’m from. I always saw her at tournaments and told my coaches that I wanted to play like her. I never did, but I am still trying. She is just really sweet and loves golf.