Life has obviously changed for Kathleen Sumner.
Sumner was enjoying an outstanding spring season for the nationally-ranked Florida State women’s golf team. The Seminoles had just finished in second place in the team standings at the Florida State Match-Up, where she had earned the fourth top-20 finish of her career. They had played well at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate and the rest of the season was quickly coming into focus.
Only two events remained until postseason play was to begin. Given the Seminoles’ recent success, the flagsticks were waving, the drives were flying down the middle of the fairways and the putts were beginning to drop.
It was Thursday, March 12 and, as Sumner and her teammates packed the FSU Golf Van for its six-hour trip to Augusta, Ga. to play in the Valspar Invitational, everything seemed normal. The sun was shining, the seven Florida State players had a renewed enthusiasm and they were set to travel to one of the top tournaments of the spring.
Until head coach Amy Bond listened to her intuition and pulled into the Texaco station right over the Georgia state line.
“I pulled over and followed my instincts as I waited for an announcement from our administration,” said Bond. “We were close to Glen Arven Golf Course and I was able to get the girls on the course while we waited on the phone call that I was almost certain was coming. I sat in the clubhouse hoping against it. It’s a day I’ll never forget.”
The phone call Bond was dreading soon came, and the Seminoles’ once-promising season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was also the day Sumner’s academic and athletic status was elevated to that of a senior. She will begin the 2020-21 season as the only senior on Florida State’s roster.
For Sumner, she is used to being in a class by herself. For her entire Seminole career, she has been the only freshman, then the only sophomore and most recently the only junior on the roster.
But this is different. Florida State’s elder stateswoman, she’s the most experienced Seminole, with 20 career matches on her collegiate resume. As a freshman she played in the ACC Championship, the NCAA Tallahassee Regional and the NCAA Championship Finals.
“Being a senior, to me, means that I will take on more of a leadership position on the team and amongst my teammates,” Sumner said. “As long as I have been here, I haven’t really taken much initiative in being a leader because of how many upperclassmen have been on the team.
“Through my actions, I want to be a leader and help my teammates like I have been taught now that I am a senior. We are all leaders on this team. I’d like to be one of those leaders.”
As a freshman, Sumner played in eight events during her first spring, including all three postseason events for the nationally-ranked Seminoles She was at her best in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional Championship in the spring of 2018, as she finished in a tie for 16th place in the individual standings with scores of 72-73-68 for a 3-under par score of 213. Sumner set personal records for a single-round score (68), for a 36-hole score (145), for a three-round tournament score vs. par (3-under) and for a three-round tournament score (213) in helping lead the Seminoles to a second-place finish in the regional championship.
As a sophomore, though she played well, Sumner could not quite crack the Seminoles’ lineup. After playing in four events during the fall season, she did not play in any of the Seminoles’ seven events during the spring season. Sumner earned the chance to travel with her teammates to the NCAA Championship Finals, where she was an alternate. While at the Blessings Club in Arkansas in late May, she made up her mind that she would do everything in her power to be a regular member of the Seminoles’ travel team.
“My sophomore season was as frustrating as much as it was a learning experience,” said Sumner. “I was really finding myself at the time and going through some adversity. Ultimately, I learned a lot and I am grateful for those experiences “
Bond was clearly happy with the changes Sumner made and how she challenged herself to improve her game and her personal mindset.
“Watching the team leave and you being left at home is tough,” Bond said. “She handled it very well and continued to push herself to get better. She worked on her total game, became more consistent, and battled her way back into the lineup as a junior. She gained confidence both on and off the course and really came into her own.
“Being a senior to means that I will take on more of a leadership position on the team and amongst my teammates. Through my actions, I want to be a leader and help my teammates like I have been taught now that I am a senior. We are all leaders on this team; I’d like to be one of those leaders."RISING SENIOR GOLFER KATHLEEN SUMNER
“Our coaching staff had some tough conversations with her, but she was up to the challenge. She dedicated herself to the changes that needed to be made for the improvement of her game. She bought in and with the help of Coach (Matt) Whall and Coach (Robert) Duck we have all seen a big positive change in her game. She has worked hard and continues to work hard.”
Duck, who serves as Florida State’s Director of Player development, couldn’t be more pleased with how quickly Sumner’s game is trending upward.
“We are really excited about Kathleen’s progress,” said Duck. “I really love what I am seeing in her game. The evidence of her improvement certainly shows us that Kathleen’s best golf is ahead of her. She’s got the power, the speed, and the mindset to be one of the top golfers we’ve had here at Florida State. As a golfer and a person, she’s a revelation.”
The golf staff has continued to work with Sumner through the pandemic.
One area where Sumner has always found success is in the classroom. In her six semesters on campus, she has been named to the Dean’s list four times and the President’s list (for a perfect 4.0 GPA) twice. Sumner helped the Seminole women’s golf team excel in the classroom again this semester – even with distance and on-line learning – as the team earned a cumulative GPA of 3.742.
“I have always been a pretty good student,” said Sumner. “I like school and am pretty motivated to get my education.”
For the Sport Management major, her incredible academic success is just another aspect of her life that keeps her in a class by herself. Her cumulative GPA of 3.73 is well above the cumulative grade point average for the entire FSU Student body during the spring 2020 semester (3.51).
Bound with the knowledge that she is now a senior only hastens how her life will change a year from now, when she becomes a proud alumna of Florida State.
“The realization of being so close to graduation is both exciting and scary,” said Sumner. “I am still not sure what I plan on doing after graduating. I value my education and would like to pursue a masters but would also like to play professionally.”
Not as often these days, but Sumner still thinks back to the fateful day in March when the lives of everyone around the world changed in an instant.
“It (the coronavirus pandemic) has become something I have come to grips with,” said Sumner. “At first, I was a little sad and angry, but now that time has passed, I have found peace in the extra time given as a result.”
After returning to her childhood home in Charleston, S.C., to finish the semester, Sumner has now come back to Tallahassee as she prepares for what’s ahead in life and on the golf course.
“The structure has been the hardest part of missing the last two months,” said Sumner. “While I have been doing well athletically and academically, there is not much structure in my days. I am trying to incorporate it more on my own.”
She’s become more goal oriented and is completely focused on her senior season.
“I want to be better at scoring, especially under pressure,” said Sumner. “I am working hard on every aspect of my game. Shooting consistently low scores is the difference between me being an average college golfer and a great college golfer.
Off the course, she wants to become more accountable.
“I am going to write out my goals that I would like to accomplish that day,” said Sumner. “I want to complete the tasks that help keep me accountable.”
Life has changed and changed for the better for Sumner. Once she realized change, in all aspects of life, is a good thing when it leads to personal improvement, she began to see the world in a whole new way.
“As a senior I believe Kathleen will continue to gain confidence in all aspects of her game and become a leader on our team,” said Bond. “I am extremely proud of how she has handled herself and how she continues to impress us all with her ability to improve her game.”
“As a senior I believe Kathleen will continue to gain confidence in all aspects of her game and become a leader on our team. I am extremely proud of how she has handled herself and how she continues to impress us all with her ability to improve her game."FLORIDA STATE GOLF COACH AMY BOND