Dad still driving force for Lease
Sometimes when her golf game is off, Katie Lease looks at a note of encouragement she received a few years ago from her first mentor in the sport and immediately feels a sense of comfort.
Despite not picking up golf until shortly before high school, the Hilliard Davidson senior blossomed into a two-time Division I district qualifier who is aiming for another strong postseason this fall.
She said it would not have been possible without her father.
"My dad wrote golf notes to himself and I just love having them around," she said. "For my first tournament, he had a note that he wrote me that said, 'I'm so proud of you.'
"Even (Sept. 17 in a dual against Hilliard Bradley) I had a horrible round. There are so many things that ring true about the fundamentals that he'd tell me. I'd give anything to have more time for him to coach me because he knew my swing better than anyone else."
Kim Lease was an avid golfer who helped teach his daughter the game before he died of pancreatic cancer on June 8, 2011.
He also was the driving force behind Davidson starting a girls golf team, which currently has a program-best winning percentage of about .600 during the regular season.
Although girls had competed on Davidson's boys team, the school didn't have its first full girls team until 2010 when Katie was a freshman.
Kim -- a member of the football program's chain gang whose son, Matt, played on the football team before graduating in 2008 -- led the charge with athletics director Mark Princehorn.
"When Katie was in junior high, Bradley had a team and Darby had a team," said Katie's mother, Judy. "(Kim) was on the chain gang up at Davidson and he'd ask Mark Princehorn, 'Why doesn't Davidson have a (girls golf) team?' (Princehorn) would just say there wasn't enough interest."
Kim, however, pressed on.
"When (Katie) was going to be a freshman, (Kim) had talked to me and a few other people about wanting to have a girls team," said Robert Winland, who has been the program's coach since its inception in 2010. "I knew I had a good solid senior in (2011 graduate) Kelsey Sicker and a good solid freshman (in Katie). He was an avid golfer who was big in promoting the sport."
According to Katie, the timing was just right.
"He knew Mark Princehorn really well and was talking to him all the time about it," she said. "I'm so glad he did that because if we'd found out he had cancer six months sooner, I don't know if (the team) would have ever been formed. I'm so glad he had the time to do it."
After playing sports such as volleyball and softball growing up, Katie immediately became one of the Wildcats' top golfers, and Davidson missed advancing to the district tournament as a team by one stroke during her freshman season.
About two months after Katie's final match that fall, in December 2010, Kim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died about six months later.
In June 2012, the Leases held the first Kim Lease Memorial Golf Tournament at The Golf Club of Dublin to raise money for scholarships and pancreatic cancer research.
The third tournament in his name is scheduled for June 29, 2014, and the Leases are hoping to provide two $1,500 scholarships.
"I'm so proud of (Katie)," Judy said. "She would never cry in front of her dad because she didn't want him to be sad. She was a social butterfly but literally had to put her life on hold. She has kept going and has blossomed into a young lady that her dad would be proud of. No one wants to go through that, but we had a family to lift each other up."
Katie made first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division for the second consecutive season this fall, finishing with an 84.25 average in league play.
Her performance helped Davidson finish fifth (15-13) in the OCC-Ohio behind champion Pickerington North (28-0). Sophomore Annie Stimmel averaged 89 to make second-team all-league.
Davidson will compete in a sectional tournament Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Oakhaven, where it is the fifth-highest seed. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 8 at The Links at Groveport.
In addition to her goal of again advancing to district, Katie is hoping to follow in her father's footsteps and play golf in college.
Kim played for Capital University in the late 1970s.
"I know (the Capital) campus really well and just to know he went there, it would be great to carry on his legacy," Katie said. "I'm so grateful I have so many great memories of him."
"By the time he left us he could see so much potential in her," Judy said. "She'd get so nervous when he'd watch her play so he would hide. Then she'd say, 'Would you please tell dad to get away from the trash can because I can still see him.' But he just knew her swing so well and knew golf."
Hilliard teams to battle for Cup
Davidson, Bradley and Darby will compete Thursday, Sept. 26, for the Superintendents Cup at Thorn Apple.
While Davidson finished fifth in the OCC-Ohio, Bradley tied Westerville Central for fourth (17-14) in the OCC-Capital behind champion Dublin Coffman (32-0). Darby went 1-27 in the OCC-Ohio.
Bradley junior Caitlin Silva averaged 84 and classmate Zoe Banaag averaged 87 as each made honorable mention all-league.
Darby's top player is sophomore Anna Burkhart, who averaged 93.25 in the OCC-Ohio.