A region that is already home to a number of notable young golfers won another in mid-2020 when Kamdyn Kelley moved to Lewiston.
The 12-year-old budding seventh grader at Cornerstone Christian School has competed in nine junior tournaments this year, finishing top three in eight and winning three, including a state-qualifying Idaho Junior Golf 10- to 12-year-old district championship in the July in Post Falls. Her ambition is to finish in the top five at next week’s state event taking place Monday and Tuesday at Canyon Springs Golf Club in Twin Falls.
“I’d like to be in the top five because I’ve done well this year,” said Kelley, who had previously qualified for the state junior championships in Washington but was not placed there. “I would like to see that, I think.”
Kamdyn’s father Shawn, a retired high school golfer in Maine, introduced her to the game when the family lived in Georgia.
“When she was probably 4 or 5 years old, he bought her her first clubs so she could go on the range,” said Kamdyn’s mother Brianne. “His only hope was that they had something to do together, but she picked it up and she enjoyed it and made more of it than we really thought.”
Shawn recalls, “It was one of those things that when I wanted to play golf, she always wanted to go. It was an opportunity for us to hang out and it turned to, ‘She really is enjoying this more than just this father-daughter time.’ We tried gymnastics, piano, dance – things like that. It said, ‘Can I go Dad?’ versus ‘Do I have to go?’ “
The Kelleys would relocate to South Carolina and the Tri-Cities for work before settling in Lewiston, where Shawn currently works for Clearwater Paper. During her time in the Tri-Cities, Shawn Kamdyn introduced Jeff Bender’s coach – “I was just trying to put them together with people who understand the game better than I do to develop them,” he said. Bender’s guidance helped bring her game to a competitive level, and she began competing in and outdoing herself in Washington Junior Golf and Drive, Chip & Putt events.
“Her short game is really good where she does well,” said Shawn. “Around the green, your wedge game, stuff like that – that’s where I would say your strength lies.”
Since moving to the area, Kamdyn has taken her home course at Lewiston Golf and Country Club, where she regularly takes masterclasses on Fridays from professional golfer Chris Lien. She also practices extensively on a makeshift driving range that her parents set up for her in their garage.
“I think we see her take five, ten strokes off her game every year and she’s been doing that consistently for the past two, three, four years,” said Shawn. “It really is your hard work. It’s not one of those things that she’s playing two months straight and putting the clubs away; she works all the time, be it in the club or in our (garage). “
Kamdyn has a 7 year old brother named Lincoln and a Labradoodle puppy named Nelly, after the number 1 female golfer Nelly Korda. Her big golf goals for the near future include “consistently shooting 85” and cracking 80 next year.
Perhaps more than anything, Kamdyn believes that the constant novelty of golf is what keeps her interested in the sport.
“Every hole is new, so you could have a really bad hole, then you get a new hole and it’s amazing,” she said.