As Americans recently gathered with family to give thanks for the bounty of riches we’ve had laid at our feet, it’s good to remember that life’s struggles, big and small, have a purpose. They make us stronger, more appreciative, and they provide us with the tools to help others. That’s easy to forget, especially when you immerse yourself in the comings and goings of a genteel game.
Then, occasionally, a story comes along to remind you.
When asked to summarize her standing at the moment, Kennedy Carroll, a sophomore on the women’s golf team at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, doesn’t hesitate. “I’m a late bloomer in golf,” she said. “But maturity-wise, I’m a little bit ahead of the game.”
There is good reason for both.
Kennedy Carroll says she’s a late bloomer in golf, but maturity-wise, she’s “a little ahead of the game.”
To get a sense of what her life has been like in and out of golf, Carroll tells a story that goes back to 2015, not long after her 15th birthday and before she had her learner’s permit to drive. Her younger sister, Copelyn, who was 12 at the time, needed to be picked up from dance practice several miles from their Charleston, South Carolina, home. And their mother, Tiffini, was too drunk to drive.
“I drove a lot,” Carroll said. “A lot more than I was supposed to. Dad would travel on business thinking Mom was better. But she wasn’t. I’d have to suck it up and drive. I figured if I got pulled over by the cops, I’d try saying at least I have a parent in the car with me.”
By then, the awful realities of alcohol abuse had hit home in the Carroll family.
“When I was in the fifth grade, I started to notice that things were not normal,” Carroll said. “I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but I knew that my mom was really good some days and not at all normal on other days. Then we started finding vodka bottles around the house. She tried to hide them, but she wasn’t very good at it. We found them easily.”
There were trips to rehab and multiple trips to the hospital. “Ambulances were a frequent thing at our house,” Carroll said. Finally, with seemingly all options exhausted, the family separated.
In the quiet times, Copelyn had dance and Kennedy had golf. As a kid, she found friendships in the game and solace on the course with her father, Stephen.
“My first clubs were a purple U.S. Kids Golf set,” Carroll said. “For a while in the middle, I didn’t like it. I played golf because my dad loved it. Like a lot of kids, I put it away for a while. But when I picked it back up, I loved it. I won my high school state championship my junior year. That was great.”
Then she paused, collected herself and said, “But no one knew what was going on behind closed doors.”
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