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Teen earns recognition as top golfer

Ashley Kemp of Gaither High is undefeated and is named a high school All-American.

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

CARROLLWOOD -- When Ashley Kemp first played golf at age 5, she was shorter than her clubs.

The 17-year-old junior at Gaither High School is taller now. And undefeated. Ashley is the top girls golfer in Hillsborough County.

The Carrollwood teen shoots 38s and 39s in 9-hole competition.

In addition to accumulating many trophies in youth competition, she has earned recognition as one of the top high school golfers in the country in the last two years, being selected as a high school All-American.

"My mom thought it would just be a passing thing, . . . but it came so naturally to me and I loved it so much . . . I work hard at improving my game," she says.

Even with all her success in youth golf, Kemp walked away from the game at age 9 with a broken heart after her coach, Frank Conti, was killed in a car accident.

"Frank was so patient and encouraging to me, and I missed him so much when he was killed," she said.

"He helped me to improve every aspect of my game, and I just thought I could not play anymore with him gone. He even helped me to get measured for new golf clubs as I continued to grow."

The memories were so painful Kemp didn't play for more than a year. Cowboys coach Will Brimm is grateful Kemp came back to the sport. Aside from being a standout player, Kemp helps recruit and train her teammates.

"Ashley brought some of her friends to the team, and she teaches them the finer points of the game," Brimm said. "She consistently shoots under 40 in local matches. . . . Right now the best part of her game is her driving. She can drive 280 to 300 yards off the tee."

Kemp is hopeful yet realistic about her teams' ability.

"Although I want my entire team to do well in districts, regionals and state, they are still learning the sport," she said. "Maybe I can do well this year and next and represent my school as a winner."

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