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Raising the Par

Playing golf in high-pressure situations and big-time tournaments has junior Katelyn Bollenbach poised to help lead Jenks past its recent second-place state finishes.

Article
John Tranchina
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
January 28, 2020

She may only be a junior, but Katelyn Bollenbach has a lot of experience playing golf in high-pressure situations and big-time tournaments, so taking on a leadership role for the Jenks High School team is natural for her. That, as well as the continual improvement she has shown over the past few years, makes her a key player to watch this spring.

After finishing 46th individually as a freshman at the Class 6A state tournament in 2018 and then placing seventh last year with a two-round total of 155, Bollenbach is poised to take another step up the ladder. But as a team leader on a young and inexperienced squad, she is also focused on her team.

Jenks finished second at state in each of Bollenbach’s two high school seasons (to Edmond North each time), so she is determined for a better team result this year. That might be a difficult task, as the Lady Trojans lost three of their five starters from last season to graduation. That’s why Bollenbach stepping into the vital leadership role is so important. But despite the inexperience, she believes Jenks will remain a formidable force this season.

“It’s about how much work you put in,” says Bollenbach of Jenks’ approach toward the state tournament. “A lot more is on the line, so you have to handle pressure more and be prepared for tough situations. I think getting the younger girls more experienced in that area will be very important. A lot of the teams in the field have lost seniors, so it’s leveled out the playing field a little bit.”

One of Bollenbach’s best leadership qualities is her work ethic, as she’s proven to be an excellent example for her younger teammates.

“With Katelyn this year and her leadership, she has stepped into that role,” says Lady Trojans coach Vicki Hughes. “We only have two seniors on the team and only one who has played a lot on the varsity level. Katelyn is filling some big shoes left by our previous three [seniors], and she’s done a great job. She’s a motivator, and she sets a good example, and that’s the key. When you’re a leader, those young ones are always watching, so you have to be on top of your game. You’ve got to be the one putting forth the most effort.”

Bollenbach has been playing golf since she was 5 years old, competing in official U.S. youth tournaments since she was 10, and that experience has shown her that the hard work pays off.

“I think with golf, you have to put in the work to become good at it,” says Bollenbach, who is also involved in the youth ministry group Young Life outside of school. “Getting second at state two years in a row has been a big factor for me. I want to win finally.”

She started out playing as a little kid with her father, Brian Bollenbach, and the game has served as a strong bonding mechanism between the two ever since.

“My dad has been a big influence in my golf career,” says Bollenbach, who also used to play soccer but gave it up years ago to concentrate on golf. “He started me when I was young, and I did golf camps and stuff like that. They always told him to keep me in the sport. He’s always pushed me to get out there and work harder.

“We used to fight a little bit when he would caddy for me, but it’s been good. He’s always very supportive and wants me to do my best. It’s been good bonding because we go out and play on the weekends and go practice.”

A vital aspect of the game that Bollenbach has focused on, and has made a lot of progress in, has been her mental toughness. Being able to forget about a bad shot or hole quickly has been a big part of her success.

“It’s so mental, you just have to stay positive the whole time,” says Bollenbach, who enjoys watching the Masters and other PGA tournaments. “I used to get so mad if I would hit a bad shot, but I’ve learned. Coach [Hughes] always says, ‘You have 10 seconds to be mad, and then you have to forget about it,’ because there’s nothing you can do about it after you hit a bad shot.

“I’m still not 100% at it, but that’s a big part of getting better. You have to be able to keep it together and handle your emotions better than anyone else.”

The fact that she not only placed seventh at last year’s state tournament but shot a personal-best 74 in the second round, including an impressive 33 over the back nine holes, demonstrates that Bollenbach has been able to overcome those issues and stay focused in pressure situations mostly.

Hughes has noticed the progression.

“She has grown and matured over the past couple of years,” Hughes says. “Her mental game has gotten a lot stronger. I’m proud of her.”

April 2020 Cover