The latest Girls All-Area Golfer of the Year owns the rare distinction of being a University of Kentucky signee.
Last month, Paintsville senior Ale Walker inked a national letter intent during the early signing period.
Walker, an All-Area Co-Player of the Year in 2011, said Kentucky began to show interest in her at the end of this summer.
“I had been looking at some other schools when Kentucky started to recruit me,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to play at UK. I took a visit and fell in love with the coach (Golda Borst) and team.”
On Thursday, Walker joined other All-Area selections for the team photo at Diamond Links Golf Course.
“I’m so excited for Ale,” said Greenup County’s Lou Quillen, the All-Area Coach of the Year. “It’s great that our area has a kid that gets to play at UK.”
The town of Paintsville also produced the last area girls golfer to sign with Kentucky — 1991 state champion Amiee Cantrell of Johnson Central.
Since then, former Ashland standout Katie Dixon played for UK after transferring from Ohio University.
“Over the years, our small group of schools has had several girls go on to play college golf,” Quillen said. “I think that’s pretty good.”
Walker shot 68 as the 10th Region Tournament medalist this season. In addition, she won the All “A” state championship as well as an American Junior Golf Association qualifier at The Greenbrier.
“It feels great,” said Walker, who also became the first woman to tee off in the long-running Paintsville Invitational and finished third. “I love making history.”
While thrilled about her opportunity to play Division I golf for Kentucky, Walker’s larger objective is to compete on the LPGA Tour.
“I’ve been working real hard,” Walker said. “I’m nowhere near where I’m going to be. I will get there.”
Walker had competition for Player of the Year honors from Ashland standout Haley Webb and Greenup County’s Ashley Veach, the 11th Region Tournament winner. Veach shot 83 to edge Webb by one stroke at Sandy Creek. Both are seniors.
Veach and All-Area teammate Katie Gillum led Greenup County to an 11-shot victory in the team standings. Quillen praised her team for rising to the occasion.
“Two weeks before, we did a tri-match with Rowan County and Ashland,” she said. “We came in third in a close match. We knew it was going to be a tight race. We wanted one of the two spots to get back to the State Tournament. I was very pleased.”
Greenup County’s team has produced four region titles and two runner-up finishes over the past eight years since Quillen got the program up and running.
Ashland, Boyd County and Johnson Central also put players on the All-Area team in voting by coaches.
Webb and sophomore Jordan Meade represent Ashland, the 11th Region Tournament runner-up. Webb took first place in the Ashland Tee Cat Invitational and was invited to the second annual Kentucky Golf Coaches Association Senior All-Star Tournament in Lexington.
Sophomore Tori Sager and seventh-grader McKinzie Walters of Boyd County both qualified for the State Tournament
Johnson Central’s Haley Adams (senior) and Zoee Crum (sixth-grader) led their team to the Region 10 championship.
Also selected were Fairview’s Amber Greene, Rowan County’s Emma Marriner and Morgan County’s Morgan Markwell.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.