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Sibling success

KATE AND KARTER SMITH have had the fortunate opportunity of having a golf course in their backyard. But the love of the sport is what has driven the Smith brother and sister duo to plenty of link success at an early age.

For most youths who want to get out to play a round of golf, it consists of either buying a membership or paying for a green fee, getting in the car and driving to their course of choice.

But for the Smith siblings -- Karter and Kate -- a round of golf is as easy as opening up the back door.

The game of golf have been at the two Smiths' fingertips since they've been very young, when their parents -- Kris and Margery -- bought the Ironman Golf Course of Detroit Lakes in 2000.

Since then, golf has been more than a huge part of the Smith's lives, with Kris being a PGA Golf Pro, along as one of the top youth golf coaches in the area.

The opportunity of owning a golf course and their parents being very supportive and knowledgeable in the game, has led to much success for each of Karter and Kate at some early ages.

But even with all that golf opportunity supplied to each of Karter and Kate, there's an aspect which is the catalyst for it all.

The desire and love for the game of golf.

"First of all, the game is a joy for both of them to play," Kris said. "We do not force them to go out and play. Golf is about repetition and although I help them with their swing, I emphasize they go out voluntarily on their own and improve their swing."

That hasn't been a problem, as each Karter and Kate have taken full advantage of what they are blessed with -- talent and the fortunate opportunity of living on a golf course.

Success on the golf course has come at an early age for both and the Smith's proved that last week during the District Championships at the St. Cloud Country Club.

Both Karter and Kate qualified for the three-day Optimist International Junior Championships, which will be held at the PGA National Golf Course in Palm Beach, Fla.

Each won their division, while the 11-year-old Kate shot the lowest in all the female divisions (she played in the 12-13 year old division).

Kate finished with an 83, which bested the six other girls in her division, while being the lowest score from the same tees in the other two older divisions of 14-15 and 16-18 year olds.

"I just had a consistent round and didn't have any big scores," Kate said.

Karter has been on a tear since the second day of the Class 2A state boys' meet at the Ridges in Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan June 16-17.

The elder Smith was making a push the second day, eventually tying the would-be medalist Jake Erickson, before the meet was called due to severe thunderstorms.

But Karter ended up earning All-State honors after shooting a first-day score of 77 and he hasn't looked back since then.

His busy summer schedule has included winning three of five MGA Junior events.

But his summer will be highlighted by qualifying for the MGA State Am at the ripe old age of 14, after shooting par on his home turf at the Detroit Country Club June 25.

"It means a lot qualifying for the State Am, because I'll be playing with a lot of great players," Karter said.

Although summer is almost halfway over, there hasn't been a day neither Karter nor Kate have not been on the golf course and it's obviously is paying off.

Kate has averaged a score of 85-86 in her MGA Junior events -- winning two of three -- while Karter has been hovering around 74-75, while making par in three of his competitive meets.

"I just go out (when playing older girls) and play my game and enjoy it," Kate added.

The key for both have been experiencing big meets at an early age, as well.

"It's been a building process for Karter to qualify for the State Am," Kris said. "He tried to qualify at the age of 12, although we knew he was going to take his lumps.

"But just to be able to play with the kids who are over his head and watch some great golfers, that's a lot of big meet experience."

That has paid off for Karter and Kate is now just following her brother's footsteps.

She will be trying to qualify for the Minnesota Girls' Amateur Championships at the age of 11.

Even though she maybe going up against players six to seven years her elder, the experience she gains will only help her for her future.

The strengths of both Smiths' games have also been the direct result of living on a 3-par course.

"It's a great course for kids to learn on because of its length," Karter said. "And it's nice having a course in your backyard and just open the door and go putt."

Kris has also stressed the importance of the short game and passed that on to his kids.

"I taught them the game starting with the green back," Kris said. "It shows, because both Karter and Kate have good short game. Now Karter is driving the ball longer and Kate is hitting it further, too."

Being level headed during bad outings and not getting too high during the good also has been a factor in both Karter and Kate's success.

With golf already supplying enough pressure situations, neither Margery nor Kris want to add more by forcing their kids to play the game.

"Mostly, we just count our blessings and try to not interfere," Margery said.

"They can go out and play as many tournaments as they want to, we'll be the bus drivers," Kris added.

So in essence, when it's all said and done, both Karter and Kate have the best of both worlds by not only enjoying their favorite sports, but being highly successful in it at such young ages -- and it's sitting right outside their backdoor.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.