By JACK BACON
OMAHA, Neb. — When incoming University of Iowa women’s golfer Kaitlyn Hanna began her journey as a young golfer, at times, it seemed as though she was the only girl competing in a boys’ sport. That is why, as a freshman in high school, Hanna decided to be the change she wished to see in the game.
“Growing up, I was usually the only girl golfer at golf camps amongst boys,” says Hanna, who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. “I wanted to give a platform for girls with a girls-only camp to get to play and learn the game of golf around other girl golfers and have fun.”
Hanna started the Warriors Girls Golf Camp in 2018, and since then, the camp has welcomed approximately 250 girls for summer afternoons of learning, practice and fun.
The camp is run with assistance from Hanna’s Westside High School girls golf team, as well as the golf professional at the host course, which has varied over the years. This summer, the camp was held at Eagle Hills Golf Course in Papillion, Nebraska.
“They are getting a lot of instruction,” Hanna says. “We do the driving range where we practice drivers and irons, and then we learn about chipping and putting. We do all the different aspects of the game and just have fun. They are all looking forward to popsicles at the end. We try to make it about hitting as many balls as possible, learning the basics and just having fun out there.”
For Hanna, the camp is an opportunity to grow the game she grew up with. It is also a chance to connect young girls who share a passion for the sport and give them role models to aspire to.
“I first held a club when I was around four years old,” says Hanna. “I was always up at the golf course, and my dad helped run the Cox Classic, which is now the Korn Ferry Tour, in Omaha. I always grew up on a golf course, but I never had another girl friend at that age that I could play with. I have friends now that I compete against, and I wish I would have met them when I was younger. That is what inspired me to start a girls-only camp.
“The camp ranges from second to eighth graders, so there is huge variety of ages. Hopefully it provides the girls someone else that they can have fun with on the course, and then turn that into a lifelong friendship. I think having the Westside team there was important for them to see that you can compete at a high level. We have also brought in various college players throughout the years, just to see where golf can take you.”
Even though Hanna will be playing in Iowa City next season, she hopes to keep the camp in Omaha going. She says the organizers are even considering a winter session as they explore new ways to keep expanding and improving the camp.
Whenever the next camp takes place, Hanna will be one of those collegiate role models, herself.
“I always knew I wanted to play in college, ever since going into my sixth-grade year when I started working with my coach,” says Hanna. “It’s cool to see that pay off. As soon as I took my visit to the University of Iowa with (head) coach (Megan) Menzel, I fell in love with the campus right away.
“Where I went to school, Westside High School, they focus so much on culture, and as soon as I stepped on Iowa’s campus, I felt that and all the pride. Iowa has a great indoor facility, and I wanted to stay in the Midwest. I felt like Iowa was the best option, and there is a great group of girls coming in with me, as well as the current players.”
Regardless of experience, Hanna has one tip for any golfer.
“Don’t think too much into it, just go out and have fun,” she said. “A lot of times I have to go back to that basic rule. Golf is a mental sport, so, a lot of times you shoot your best score and have your best tournament when you just go out there and have fun, not trying to worry about all the different aspects of the game. That is something I tell the young girls in my camp that will help them a lot.”