From childhood on, Ekey has always been in motion
For as long as she can remember, Kathleen Ekey has always been on the move.
From the early days of her childhood to now, as a 2012 LPGA Tour rookie, life has been a flurry of activity for the 25-year-old. Growing up in Ohio, Ekey was as active as a child could be, and sports were the center of her universe.
Whether it was golf, softball, gymnastics, ice skating or track, Ekey was doing it. She also spent considerable time and effort participating ballet, tap dancing and musical theater and even played the violin, to boot.
She was not a child who sat still for long. If she wasn’t in motion, she wasn’t happy.
“I was a crazy child,” she said. “I never had five minutes to sit down, and I was always doing something. I used to eat all my meals and do all my homework in the car, so it really was crazy.”
While it may have seemed taxing or too busy for other kids, Ekey knew her busy life as being the status quo.
“That was just normal to me, and that’s what I enjoyed doing,” she said. “I never had time to go hang out with my friends, so I never had any trouble just going out on the golf course all day and being away from my friends because it was just normal for me. I think that was really good for me.”
And all along the way, golf was there. It was a sport Ekey gravitated to naturally, one she quickly fell in love with.
“I don’t really remember when I started liking golf, but my parents told me that, when I was a toddler, I used to watch golf on TV,” Ekey said. “My mom said it was the only time she could get me to sit still. She said I would sit on the couch and watch an entire golf telecast, and I would tell the ball to go in the hole.”
In ninth grade, Ekey made the difficult decision to choose golf over ballet as her primary sport of focus. Years developing a strong core muscle group from gymnastics, ballet and ice skating helped Ekey with balance and strength in golf, and her game took off.
Recruited by Mic Potter to play golf at Furman, Ekey spent two years there, earning first-team All-Southern Conference honors both years. But Potter had taken the job at the University of Alabama before Ekey even took a single swing at Furman, and she eventually followed him there after her sophomore season.
At Alabama, Ekey enjoyed great success as a member of the Crimson Tide squad. She was a two-time first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection, won two tournaments and gained ample experience and confidence along the way.
Ekey enjoyed her time in the deep South, an area of the country she says suits her.
“I think I’m a Southern girl at heart,” Ekey said.
It was because of those ties to Alabama that she was rocked by the news that Tuscaloosa, where the University of Alabama campus is located, was ravaged by a series of tornadoes last April 27. Ekey was competing in a Symetra Tour event in San Antonio when the devastation occurred, and she was deeply troubled by the news.
“I was about to teach a junior clinic when my mom called me to tell me about it, and I saw on TV after the clinic how bad it was,” Ekey said. “I wasn’t sure if where I lived was still there or my car was there. That was a pretty raw emotional experience.
“I flew back home on Monday, and at that point, I’d seen enough on TV to know it was going to be pretty ugly when I got back home. You couldn’t even get through on the road I lived, because it was blocked off. To this day, I still don’t understand how everything stayed OK. All the buildings around it were leveled, and my car just happened to be parked in a good spot. I just lost the window and mirrors. I still can’t believe how lucky I was, and that put things in perspective for me.”
With thousands of Alabamians losing everything by hundreds of tornadoes that pounded the state throughout the day, Ekey saw firsthand how a community can come together to help those who need it most.
“People in the South are known for helping each other,” she said. “It was unbelievable to see the outpouring of support people gave each other, and maybe that was the best lesson in all of it. To know that, when so many people were hurting, others could step up and try to help. It was great to see so many people coming together to help the ones who’d lost so much. It really put things in perspective.”
That perspective, and her genuine giving personality, inspired Ekey to help out when she was in town between tournaments. That perspective is something she won’t soon lose sight of.
“I put so much into golf, but at the end of the day, it’s just golf,” Ekey said. “You realize how fast things can be taken away from you. It was pretty emotional to know that the city you’ve lived in for three-and-a-half or four years was unrecognizable. I can’t even explain it.
“I just wish I could have done more.”