Five years ago and aside from a rare trip to the driving range or maybe an outing to play putt-putt golf with friends, neither Mikaela Hickey or Maggie Arehart had ever picked up a golf club with the intention of playing nine holes.
Now their excellence in the game of golf will help pay for their college educations.
Both key members of a Belleville West team that reached the Class AA Sectional Tournament last fall, Arehart and Hickey recently signed scholarship offers to play collegiate golf beginning in the 2015-16 season.
The Maroons’ top player for the past two years, Hickey has signed with the University of Findlay (Ohio), while Arehart announced that she has signed and will play collegiate golf at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Ill.
Both Arehart and Hickey have been a big part of the Maroons program, which has shown tremendous improvement in the past few years under coach Elaine Souders, who played two years of college golf at John A. Logan College in Carterville.
Souders made no attempt to hide her happiness as two of her top players announced their college intentions recently.
“There are a lot of opportunities for girls to play college golf if they are willing to put in the time to work on their games and become good players. I’m just so proud and happy for both Maggie and Mikaela,’’ Souders said. “They are examples of what student-athletes should be. They excel in the classroom and on the golf course. But most of all, they are both great kids. They both truly have to the total package.’’
Hickey, who chose Findlay, a NCAA Division II school that placed seventh in the nation last year, over several others including Carthage College and Quincy University.
A first team-all Southwestern Conference selection and first team all Belleville News-Democrat All-Area player, Hickey had an average just over 39 for nine holes this season and earned a trip to the Class AA State Tournament.
But a few years ago, golf was the last thing on Hickey’s mind.
That is until she received a special Christmas present.
“My parents played golf and so one year they bought me golf lessons for Christmas. Aside from maybe going to the driving range once or twice I had never played,’’ Hickey said. “But when I started to play I quickly fell in love with the game.”
“I’m totally excited about going to Findlay University. It’s far from home (about 7-7 1/2 hours), but when I went out there for my visit, I just really liked the campus and the coaches were great. It’s a place where I think if I work hard on my game, that the coaches will help make my game stronger and help me take it to the next level.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.