Ekey helps launch a tide of aid for Alabama

Kathleen Ekey

Kathleen Ekey

Kathleen Ekey never imagined her first professional victory would turn out the way it did.

“You hate to shoot 77 in the final round,” she said.

But if there’s anything Ekey has learned in the past month, it’s to appreciate life’s gifts – no matter how they’re packaged. Weeks before Ekey won the Futures Tour’s Ladies Titan Tire Challenge on June 5, she went to a decimated Alberta City neighborhood of Tuscaloosa with the Alabama women’s golf team and served food to those who had lost everything to a deadly tornado.

“It’s weird to drive around a place that’s second nature, and all of a sudden you can barely tell where you are,” said Ekey, a 2009 Alabama graduate who still rents an apartment in Tuscaloosa. Ekey was playing in a Futures event in San Antonio when the storm hit. Her car was parked at her apartment complex and lost a window and mirror. Vehicles parked 30 feet away were totaled. Buildings that once surrounded her apartment are gone.

Ekey, 24, wishes she could do more for those who weren’t so fortunate. She’s in the process of organizing “Birdies for ’Bama,” an initiative that would allow her supporters to donate money for every birdie she makes in competition this year.

Ekey, who has competed in five events on the Futures Tour, leads the money list with $21,578. In addition to her victory in Iowa, Ekey has two top 10s.

Ekey carried her own bag in Iowa, toting one from her college days. After solid rounds of 67-71 to start the event, she struggled on the greens the final round. Walking from the 16th green to the 17th tee on Sunday, she saw on a scoreboard that she had a two-stroke lead.

She hit a solid drive down the fairway, what she considered the toughest shot on the hole, and then chunked a 4-iron in the hazard. Her 3-wood suffered the same watery fate. A double bogey later, Ekey said she was about to have a heart attack.

But, she refocused, parred the final hole and won by a shot.

Not long after, Ekey hopped into her car and drove through the night, arriving at this week’s stop in Cincinnati at 4 a.m. She helped conduct an all-day clinic for the event on Monday.

“I think I was just pumped up on adrenaline,” Ekey said.

It has been an emotional ride.

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