NAPPANEE — Kirsten Schrock was well on her way to a golf career at Grace. Before the skilled NorthWood senior took a visit to Crossroads League-rival Taylor University, that is.
The nondenominational evangelical college in Upland made quite an impression on Schrock, and the Trojans stole her away from their Winona Lake-based rivals. She made it official Wednesday, finally putting pen to paper in a signing ceremony at NorthWood High School.
“I was looking at Grace, and I took a couple visits there,” recalled Schrock. “I actually was planning to go there but I hadn’t made any decisions, and I took my visit to Taylor and I was like ’This is where I’m going.’ All I needed was the golf coach to ask me to be on the team, and he did and I was like ‘That’s it.’”
Schrock will enter a Taylor women’s golf program on the rise under the stewardship of four-year head coach Cameron Andry, a program that has won Crossroads League championships each of the past three seasons and started the 2019 season with championships at four straight invitationals, most recently taking the title at the Whistling Straits Championship — beating out NAIA No. 1-ranked Keiser in the process. And the Trojans will be getting a consistently solid performer, a four-year letter winner and third-year team captain who has played on some very big high school stages with impressive results. But they’ll be getting a well-rounded student-athlete, too, says NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder.
“Just an outstanding young lady. Her commitment to her faith, her commitment to her school work — she’s an outstanding student — but then also her commitment to becoming a really good golfer has been outstanding,” said Yoder. “She’s a great teammate, but you look at the last couple years, she went from a JV player her freshman year, to last year she’s all-conference honorable mention, to this year she’s the conference runner-up behind her teammate Cybil (Stillson). She’s the sectional runner-up behind her teammate Cybil. She had our second-best score at the regional with an 83 and then placed in the top 50 at the state finals. She has improved so much, and she’s still learning. She’s going to get better, and we’re really excited about what she can do at Taylor. And I know Taylor is going to be a really nice fit for her.”
Schrock’s growth over her four-year high school career has been significant and serves as a testament to what hard work can do. She climbed from the number 10 slot on the Lady Panthers’ roster as a freshman to the number two spot on this year’s record-setting team behind all-state golfer Stillson, getting incrementally better each season. There wasn’t any magic to it — just a lot of time and sweat out on the course.
“I kind of hope that I’ve shown the younger players that you don’t have to be good right at the beginning. There’s plenty of room for improvement, and you can always grow and learn more,” Schrock said.
Her work ethic may serve her well as she tries to break into the top of the Trojans’ lineup, too. And there’s still plenty of ceiling left.
“Taylor’s program has grown to the point where it’s going to be tough for Kirsten to break into that top five right from the start, but she knows what that’s like. She knows what it’s like to have to work to get onto a team that’s strong,” Yoder explained. “I think that we’ll see her continue to do that at Taylor if she’s not in the top five right away. They’re getting a girl that seems to, the last couple years anyway, that plays really well when it matters most. Very focused, very confident player.”
Schrock seems intent on improving herself off the links as well. Admitting she’s not a completely outgoing person, Schrock said one of the qualities that attracted her to Taylor was the social atmosphere there, which she believes “would be good for me.” The university’s proximity to home also influenced her decision — the Upland campus is two hours away, which gives her the chance to have family visit and vice versa but is also far enough away for her to stretch her wings in her first year away from the nest.
“It’s about two hours away, which is my optimal distance. It’s not too far away, but it’s not super close,” she said. “And I actually have a cousin who currently goes to Taylor, so I’ll get to spend more time with that side of my family. I don’t see them very often, so it’s going to be fun.”