The golf course is where business deals are consummated, competitive fires are stoked and even the world’s best are routinely humbled. Far less often is an opportunity for a pair of sisters to tee off in a competitive, yet light-hearted match.
But, this was the case last week when Kayla and Jenna Thompson and their respective high school golf programs met at the Royal St. Augustine Golf &Country Club. Kayla, 17, is a senior at St. Joseph Academy. Jenna, 15, is a sophomore at St. Augustine who advanced to the postseason as a freshman.
“I thought it was really fun playing with my sister because it’s the huge thing I’ve been looking forward to. She is my enemy now,” Kayla said, letting off a laugh to alleviate the animus.
Neither St. Augustine nor St. Joseph has a girls golf team, so the Thompsons compete with, and against, boys during the regular season. They attend different schools because Kayla was enrolled in the private school ahead of her junior year, while Jenna is home-schooled. Because the family of eight lives in St. Augustine, their zoned school is St. Augustine High, which is why Jenna tees off for the Yellow Jackets.
Her presence has been welcomed from Day 1 by St. Augustine golf coach Larry Benicasa.
On a broiling hot August afternoon last Thursday, Jenna and her Yellow Jackets teammates wore all black. Kayla was spotted in a white hat with a green Adidas polo with the St. Joseph Academy logo emblazoned on it.
It wasn’t the first time the two were paired together in a varsity golf match, but it was the most natural of the three meetings between them.
“I always like watching them compete,” their father, Wayne, said as the two putted on the 15th green. “They have grown closer as sisters. This year, they are having more fun. Last year was Jenna’s first year and Kayla’s first year at a new school, so they were newbies.”
They were paired with Taylor Dickmann and Evan Price, the No. 1 golfers for both St. Joseph and St. Augustine. The foursome started at the par-4 10th hole. Kayla, who later admitted she was more nervous than her younger sister, started with a seven. Jenna carded a bogey.
When one of the sisters lost her tee shot, the small armada of followers helped locate the ball. Wayne was in one cart while Kayla and Jenna’s mother, Valerie, was in another with the sisters’ four younger siblings. Leah, 13, Luke, 11, Dylan 7 and Hannah, 5, who were not as enthralled with the golf as they were an opportunity to hang out with the entire family at one time.
Leah, who will likely golf at St. Augustine High next year, paid closer attention to the proceedings, and even walked a few fairways with her sisters.
“I started them when they were 6 years old,” Wayne said proudly. “It was something I liked and I wished they would have started earlier. In the business world, it’s something you can always play. If they don’t play in college, they can play in the business world.”
Kayla said golf provides an opportunity to hone her leadership skills, meet new people, and it is an avenue where she can always try her best.
On the afternoon when she teed off with her sister, she may have tried a little too hard.
Having beaten her sister on both occasions when the Flashes and Yellow Jackets had dual matches in 2016, she wanted to continue the trend.
Jenna’s par at No. 18 and Kayla’s bogey meant her 4-over 40 was not only four shots better than her sister, but was the lowest round carded by a St. Augustine golfer that afternoon.
“This is actually a once-in-a-lifetime thing, her beating me,” Kayla said. “She played really well today. I’m proud. I’m proud of my little sister.”
When Jenna tapped in her par putt on the par-5, 414-yard 18th hole, she smiled and shook her sister’s hand.
“I’m glad they have this to share together,” Valerie said. “Golf is one of those sports no matter how old you are, you can always play. I hope they carry it on for the rest of their lives.”