Five and a half miles separated Kayla Smith’s high school from Lori Beth Adams’ school in Burlington, North Carolina.
Smith is a junior at Williams High School, and in 2010, Adams graduated from Western Alamance High School, right outside of Burlington.
Yet the two had never met before this week.
“I knew she played at Indian Valley, which is where my high school’s home course is. I’d seen her out there a couple times but hadn’t actually formally met her, so this is the first time I did,” Smith said.
“She’s super nice. She’s helped me through this entire process, and it’s been great.”
Smith earned an exemption to the 2018 Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic in March by winning a qualifier at the Links at Stoney Point.
She finished 7-over 150 in the Women’s Health Classic Junior Challenge and won by one stroke when Lauren Freyvogel bogeyed her final hole.
Smith said she’s focused on making the cut and playing into the weekend, and she’s happy her school’s prom is the following weekend.
“It’s great. It obviously gives me a perspective as to what they do every day,” Smith said. “It’s pretty cool seeing all these international people all over the place.”
Kristy McPherson, however, was winning tournaments for the University of South Carolina women’s golf team the year Smith was born.
McPherson, 36, got her start on the Symetra Tour, then called the Futures Tour, in 2003.
“On paper I guess I’m older than them, but I still feel like a kid,” McPherson said. “You’re only as old as you feel. That’s what they say, right?”
For McPherson, this weekend’s tournament is a shot to regain her form and win her first tournament on the LPGA’s qualifying circuit since 2006.
McPherson, a Conway native, played 10 seasons on the LPGA Tour, with her best season coming in 2009 when she finished top-10 in three of the tour’s four majors.
She had seven wins for the Gamecocks before graduating in 2003.
“You can say USC around here and people actually know you mean the real USC,” McPherson said. “Everywhere else I go, I say USC and they think it’s that other one.”
McPherson is one of six golfers with ties to South Carolina.
Taylor Totland and Laura Wearn graduated from Furman, while Justine Dreher and Sarah Schmelzel also represent USC. Olivia Jordan-Higgins played at Charleston Southern.
McPherson played last week in the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic, an LPGA event, but did not make the cut.
Even there, she noticed the difference in age.
“I could be a lot of their moms. It’s crazy,” McPherson said. “I played Dallas last week and these girls are 21, 22, and I’m like, ‘I’m not even mentioning my age,’ you know?”
McPherson, who now lives in Tampa, Florida, said she still considers South Carolina home, especially since much of her family still lives in Murrells Inlet. In fact, McPherson said her sister will caddie for her during the tournament, and her mother will also be in attendance.
Elizabeth Szokol is the money leader on the Symetra Tour, picking up her first professional win last weekend at the IOA Invitational of Atlanta, where she shot a 4-under 212.
The Women’s Health Classic is one of the highest purses on the Symetra Tour at $200,000.
Celine Boutier won the event last year with a 10-under 278, the same score that won the tournament in 2016 and 2015.