GVSU senior golfer reflects on career

GVL / Courtesy - Brett Dunbar
Alex Taylor competes in the GLIAC tournament Sunday, April 26, 2015.

GVL / Courtesy – Brett Dunbar Alex Taylor competes in the GLIAC tournament Sunday, April 26, 2015.

Adam Knorr

Four All-GLIAC first team plaudits, back-to-back GLIAC Women’s Golfer of the Year awards and countless fairway-seeking drives later, Kelly Hartigan’s career at Grand Valley State has drawn to a close.

Were it not for teammate Gabrielle Shipley, the Lakers may never have come to know such a special talent.

GVSU head coach Rebecca Mailloux recalls a time in 2010 when she went to scout Shipley in a junior amateur tournament. Shipley and Hartigan were paired together.

The two then-strangers played well round after round. Mailloux had no choice but to notice. Luckily, she may have been the first college coach to do so.

Despite such clear talent, Hartigan failed to surface on many coaches’ radars because, quite simply, the coaches were looking in the wrong places.

At Chippewa Valley High School, Hartigan petitioned her way onto the men’s team due to the absence of a women’s squad. She earned All-Conference honors four years in a row, but, were it not for the chance pairing with Shipley in 2010, she may have ended up toiling away among Division III competition.

“I just kind of fell upon her and was ecstatic that I did,” Mailloux said. “I was even more ecstatic to find out that she wasn’t necessarily being recruited by anyone at that point. I think it was huge that I was the first coach to approach her and express an interest.”

It didn’t take long for Hartigan to repay the favor to Mailloux.

Four years playing men’s golf meant that Hartigan had been forced to play from the men’s tees. When she started playing collegiate golf, Hartigan had the opposite problem than most freshmen players – the courses were shorter than she was used to.

Hartigan made the necessary adjustments, and the accolades started coming in droves.

In the 2011-12 season, Hartigan snatched GLIAC Freshman of the Year honors. The newcomer carded an average score of 78.55 and managed to tie for 16th at the Division II National Championship.

As a sophomore, Hartigan carded a +5 at the GLIAC Women’s Golf Championship, good for medalist honors, as the Lakers clinched their sixth consecutive conference title. The performance – and her conference average 76.39 – was enough for the Lake Orion native to earn the GLIAC Women’s Golfer of the Year award.

The success kept mounting. In her junior season, Hartigan became just the fourth Laker in school history to earn WGCA All-America First Team honors. Among a list of awards longer than her own drives, Hartigan also was chosen for her second consecutive GLIAC Women’s Golfer of the Year award.

“My demeanor on the course definitely changed a little bit,” Hartigan said, in reference to her development at GVSU. “I’ve always been pretty competitive… sometimes I let attitude and emotion get to me, but maturing emotionally and mentally and learning to do things for my team and for my coach allowed me to be a little looser mentally.”

Marked by that mental strength and textbook consistency, Hartigan’s 2014-15 season capped one of the best careers in Laker women’s golf history.

Hartigan became the fourth GVSU golfer to be a three-time All-American. Her fourth consecutive All-GLIAC First Team laurel also put her among select company, as Hartigan became just the sixth four-time All-GLIAC First Team honoree in conference history.

The Lakers fell short at the NCAA Division II East Super Regional, failing to qualify for the NCAA Division II Championship in Allendale. Hartigan, however, was the exception, earning medalist honors at the Super Regional, affording her a spot at the national championship.

Four years after her final bout on the men’s golf team at Chippewa Valley High School, Hartigan carded a 17-over-par 305 at The Meadows Golf Course in Allendale, Mich., snagging a ninth place finish at the national championship and bidding goodbye to GVSU golf.

Throughout her career, it hasn’t just been a scorecard that marked Hartigan for a standout. The reviews of coaches, peers and fans all point to a perennial winner as well.

“Kelly doesn’t get involved in drama,” said former teammate and GVSU standout Sarah Hoffman. “Obviously there’s going to be some drama, but she was very humble when she played well and didn’t get involved in the little things. She took all of her friendships separately.”

Hartigan’s next stop won’t be the tee box on hole one, but rather George Washington University, where she plans to get a graduate degree in speech language pathology.