By Sam Draut–
A cameraman moves around the putting green at the Kentucky Fairgrounds and Exposition Center U of L Golf Facility capturing some members of the Louisville women’s golf team attempting a variety of trick shots. Away from the attention, fifth-year senior Katie Mitchell quietly sinks a few putts in the back corner of the room.
It has been a long journey for the Florida native, but after three different schools, and plenty of growing up in between, Mitchell is playing her final season as a collegiate golfer.
“This is my last time,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t think it would ever come, but its here so I want to live it up everyday.”
Mitchell’s spring season started off the right way. U of L won its second-consecutive Battle of the Bluegrass over in-state rival Kentucky last weekend. Fellow senior Laura Restrepo finished first in the field after shooting 2-over-par during the two-day tournament. Mitchell shot an 8-over-par to finish third, beating her Kentucky counterpart by six strokes.
The win is Louisville’s second team championship this year and stirs up some momentum for the Cardinals heading into a full slate of tournaments in the next two months.
“It boosts all of our confidence for the beginning of the year,” Mitchell said.
Along with confidence, a boost in warm weather will help as well. The team travels to sought after destinations during the spring season, first playing in the Puerto Rico Classic from Feb. 14-16, and then traveling to Miami and South Carolina for tournaments in March. Before the ACC Championship, Louisville concludes the regular season in the Silverado Showdown in Napa, Calif. from April 3-5.
A two-time winner of the First Coast Women’s Amateur championship, Mitchell said she has never been more excited.
“It is going to be so much fun, I’m going to enjoy every moment,” Mitchell said.
Though she didn’t start her career at Louisville, Mitchell believes the adversity she faced from transferring to multiple schools during her career has helped prepare her for the final stretch.
As a freshman, Mitchell played at Central Florida and earned Conference-USA freshman of year honors for coach Courtney Trimble, the current U of L head coach. Trimble coached at UCF from 2009-12, but left for Louisville after Mitchell’s freshman year. Mitchell said she wanted to follow Trimble to Louisville, but wasn’t sure if she could handle the colder weather, so she transferred to Florida.
Because of NCAA transfer rules, Mitchell was forced to redshirt the 2012-13 season, but played well the following year. She was the only golfer to play in every tournament for Florida and averaged 74.3 strokes per round.
It was after her redshirt-sophomore year that Mitchell realized Louisville was where she needed to be. She received her release from Florida and reached out to Trimble, who welcomed her with open arms.
The move north meant colder weather for Mitchell, but Trimble thinks the transition has helped her grow as a player.
“It has been a big change, coming up here and preparing in the winter is a little bit different than preparing down there,” Trimble said.
“She has done a great job of adapting her game,” Trimble said. “She has become a better player because she has learned to play off different grasses and now she is familiar playing in cold weather.”
Despite being at her third school in four years, Mitchell became a standout in her first season at U of L. She led the team with a 74.18 stroke average and had five top-10 finishes in 12 events. Mitchell tied for 14th at the NCAA South Bend Regional, the highest finish by a Cardinal at an NCAA regional since 2008.
The journey has been long, but Mitchell “wouldn’t change it at all.”
At every step of the way, she said she has learned something new. And in her final year, as the most experienced member of the team, along with Restrepo, Mitchell faces a new challenge. The 11-member roster is comprised of six freshman, making the Cardinals one of the youngest teams in the ACC.
The two seniors are calming influences to the young roster. As the younger players look up to Mitchell, she has relearned fundamentals and techniques so she can teach the freshmen.
“Laura and I have our hands full, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mitchell said.
“It is so much fun, there is never a dull moment,” Mitchell said. “They’re wild and crazy, they bring so much excitement.”
In her fourth year as the coach of Louisville, Trimble is glad to have two seniors guide the young roster through its first season as collegiate golfers. Mitchell and Restrepo have taught the six freshmen how to prepare for practices and tournaments.
“It is good to have the seniors, they are really consistent, they are showing the freshmen how it works,” Trimble said.
While every step has been different, Mitchell took the right step to finish off her collegiate career.
“I have met so many amazing people, the help and support I have gotten from the University of Louisville has been unreal,” Mitchell said. “I’m so thankfully and grateful.”