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Bulldogs Golf
Big changes for big results

Kelli Pemberton
A total change in Kelli Pemberton’s swings — driver, irons, fairway woods and wedges — started soon after her appearance in the Class AAA state tournament in October.

“It’s a lot cleaner now, it’s more on plane,” said Pemberton about her new swing working with Randy Wiley of Fairways & Greens.

“My club face is more square. … I would say at least 10 more yards off the tee. … I’m hitting my other shots a lot farther, too.”

A Carson-Newman College commitment, Pemberton finished second in Region 2-AAA Tournament last year after losing in a playoff to teammate Allie Knight. Pemberton, 17, added that her swing improvements have reduced “at least four shots” off her score per 18-hole round.

“When I changed my swing, I also changed my chipping and pitching stroke, which helps me hit the ball a lot cleaner and helps me land it closer to the hole with spin on it,” Pemberton said. “I am going to the outside more at the beginning [of my stroke], and I am turning through with my hips a little more.”

“It was a pretty big change,” she added. “I’ve really stressed my work on putting and just getting my ball closer to the hole.”

Her improvements have paid off during All-American Junior Golf Tour and Girls Junior Amateur events, Pemberton said.

“Sometimes my score would not turn out as good as I would like it to, but my shots overall were a lot better,” Pemberton said. “And that impressed the people that I was playing with and anyone that happened to be watching.”

However, her clubs haven’t changed. “I have a TaylorMade Superfast Burner driver; I have TaylorMade 5-woods and, I think, three TaylorMade hybrids,” she said.

“All of my irons are King Cobra,” Pemberton added. “I have 54- and 58-degree Titleist wedges. And an Odyssey putter.”

Her ball is Titleist Pro V-1. “It’s really good with spin on the greens,” Pemberton said. “That ball is really comfortable for me to play with.”

As for the weakest part of her game, “I need to work on fairway bunker shots and green-side bunker shots,” Pemberton said.

John Heins, Bearden head coach, said Pemberton “is probably the most improved player from one year to the next that I’ve ever had” in seven seasons at BHS. “She really came on strong last year and helped us finish second in the state.”

Freshman Bailey Edwards “is going to be a good golfer for us,” Heins said. Senior Lisa McElmurray “really did a pretty good job qualifying.”

As for now being Bearden’s No. 1 girl, Pemberton said Knight “has been a great mentor, and she’s helped me a lot with the mental game, and just the game in general. … We would go out and play from the men’s tees. We would just talk about our game. Mostly, we would just have fun out there.”

As a result, “I think that I’m prepared to take on this load, now, even though she’s gone off to college.”

A two-time state qualifier, Pemberton has played in state tourneys at both Old Fort Golf Club in Murfreesboro (2009) and Willowbrook Golf Club in Manchester (2010), site of this year’s high school golf state tourneys.

“I prefer Old Fort, but Willowbrook was still a nice place to play at,” Pemberton said. “I thought Old Fort was a little more manicured.

“I thought that Willowbrook was easier; it felt like the holes were shorter to me … a shorter and more simple course,” she added. “I don’t know if it was because my distance was longer.”


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