*This article appeared in Oct/Nov ’17 issue of Owensboro Living.

Ke’Asha Phillips was just 8 years old when her father enrolled her in First Tee, a youth golf program. The next year, as a fourth grader, she joined the golf team at Owensboro High School.

“I was shocked,” Phillips, a freshman golfer at Xavier University in Cincinnati, said recently about making the team at such a young age. “I was nervous. I started taking lessons in seventh grade, then competed in high school.”

Breanna Patz, head women’s golf coach at Xavier University, first saw Phillips play in an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event in Owensboro. Patz said she thought Phillips hit decently at that tournament, but had some work to do.

Patz said her interest in Phillips was piqued after seeing improvement in her play at an AJGA tournament the next year at Otter Creek Golf Course near Indianapolis.

“I followed her progress as far as scores,” Patz said, “and then got her on campus. I liked her and her family. I thought she would be a good addition for our program.”

There are a number of things Patz looks for in a potential golfer for her team, including good fundamentals in her golf swing, as well as her ability to play and score.

“There are so many numbers we can look at in the recruiting process,” she said. “Ke’Asha had herself out there at the national level for a few years. I was able to see what she was doing and how far she had come.”

Patz also looks for student-athletes who are strong academically with good personalities, character, role models and family.

Phillips said she selected Xavier because of the size of the school (there are about 6,500 students, according to Xavier.edu) and her teammates. She had the chance to spend a weekend on campus with the golfers before committing to the program.

“On the golf side of it, the facilities are really nice, the course,” she said. “I feel like I could really improve my game, in season and off season.”

During the winter months, the program has an indoor facility with heated bays on the driving range, which can be opened up to hit outside. There are also indoor putting and chipping greens.

“I really love the school,” Phillips said. “It’s really nice. … I’m real excited.”

Phillips hasn’t declared a major yet and is exploring her options during her freshman year. She said she hopes to pick a major soon. She wants to play golf professionally, but is glad she will have a degree to fall back on.

Phillips said she enjoys that golf is both a team and individual sport. It takes mental toughness, she said, because an athlete can’t blame any other teammate for how well she plays – if a player takes a bad shot, that’s on her.

“You have to fix it yourself,” she said.

Collegiate golf is a fall and spring sport, with tournament results in the fall counting toward the spring season. There are five tournaments in the fall, then five tournaments plus a conference tournament in the spring.

Phillips was one of five golfers on her team to make the cut for the Musketeers’ first tournament of the fall season, the William & Mary Invitational on Sept. 10-11 in Williamsburg, Va.

The Musketeers finished sixth overall, and Phillips tied for 41st place.

Phillips and her teammates played five inter-squad rounds to determine which players would get to compete at the first tournament.

“After the first three rounds, Ke’Asha was leading the way,” Patz said in an interview the week before the invitational. “It’s good to see a freshman come in and make an automatic impact.”

Though Phillips struggled with some of the other rounds, she made the fourth spot on the squad for the first tournament. Patz called Phillips very coachable, noting that there are some things she wants to do to help the student-athlete improve her swing.

“I am excited to see where she could go,” Patz said. “I definitely think she could be a big-time player for us.”