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Golf makes family sense for East senior

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Columbus East High School golfer Caroline Smith seen during the IHSAA girls regional golf match at Westwood Golf Course on September 28, 2013 in New Castle, Indiana. Michael Hickey for the Republic
Columbus East High School golfer Caroline Smith seen during the IHSAA girls regional golf match at Westwood Golf Course on September 28, 2013 in New Castle, Indiana. Michael Hickey for the Republic

Caroline Smith’s father is a PGA golf professional, and her mother played college golf at Indiana University.

But it wasn’t until high school that Smith began taking the game seriously. She played volleyball and ran track as a seventh-grader and volleyball and golf as an eighth-grader at St. Bartholomew School.

The past four years, Smith has been at or near the top of the Columbus East girls golf lineup, and she plans to continue the sport next year at Loyola University in Chicago.

“It’s always been a family sport, but I never really tried to be good at it until freshman year,” Smith said.

But that freshman year, she established a goal to eventually play golf in college.

“I was pretty sure I wanted to continue it, but after I made varsity, I was like, ‘Yep, I want to play college golf,” Smith said. “I knew I wanted to play Division I. I just didn’t know where I wanted to play.”

Smith had a full scholarship offer from IUPUI and an offer to walk on at Indiana University, but opted for the offer from Loyola. She is the first girls golfer from East to receive a Division I athletic scholarship.

“I think she fit better in the small Division I environment,” said her father, Jeff Smith, a teaching pro at Otter Creek. “She’ll have a chance to compete in her first year. The girls on the team are the same caliber of player to a little bit better caliber of player.”

Caroline first visited Loyola in January and made the trip again in late July, when she committed to the school. She went for her official visit in early October.

“It was beautiful,” Smith said. “The girls seemed like my type of people. The coach is really nice. They all seemed welcoming.

“I was always hoping for a Catholic college, and I wanted it to be a big-city college, and it’s in Chicago, so it’s about everything I wanted,” she said. “It was the perfect school for me.”

Smith actually committed to former Loyola coach Jason Calhoun. Calhoun took a golf pro job in August and was replaced by Kyle Stefan, who had been the coach at Chicago State.

“(Calhoun) told me he was already sure who (the new coach) was going to be and said it wasn’t anybody I would have to look out for, so I trusted him with that,” Smith said.

This year, Smith is the overall co-chairwoman for the Dance Marathon Charity Fundraiser and oversees 10 sub-committees and 40 businesspeople from the community. She spent the past weekend at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Conference at Bradford Woods.

Smith, who carries a 3.92 GPA on a 4.0 scale, is thinking of majoring in marketing, political science or pre-law. She hopes to play varsity golf as a freshman and eventually win a college tournament.

“When she started high school, she told me she wanted to get an athletic scholarship to a school that she wanted to go to, and she got that,” her father said. “Now, her goal is to win an individual title in a college tournament. I thought that was pretty cool that she has already set those goals.”

He said the hardest thing to do was to not push Caroline and his younger daughter Rebecca, a sophomore golfer at East, too hard.

“My goal was always to help my kids do what they want to do,” Jeff Smith said. “Caroline has right now more of a love for the game than Rebecca has. If given a 72-degree wind with a sunny day, Caroline would have 25 golf courses in her head where she wanted to play.”

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