Kate Owens had just received the scholarship offer she wanted but was all alone.
The Lambert junior was sitting at home last Tuesday when James Madison University women’s golf head coach Sarah Sargent called out of the blue. Of Owens’s final three college choices, James Madison was her preference. When Sargent offered Owens a spot on the team, she was elated.
But she had to wait for her parents to come home to share the news.
“They walked in the door, and I’m like, ‘Hey mom, I got a scholarship offer to James Madison,’” Owens said. “She was like, ‘A what?’”
Owens waited until this past Monday before she committed to James Madison, giving the four-time defending state champion Lady Longhorns a second future Division I golfer with Christine McDonnell (Navy).
Owens chose the Dukes over Delaware (her father’s alma mater) and Western Kentucky, but her preference for James Madison crystalized after taking visits to all three. The coaching chemistry between Sargent and her assistant, Curtis Brotherton, made an impression on Owens, as did the comradery amongst the team. James Madison is No. 8 in the South in the latest Best Colleges Rankings from U.S. News & World Report.
And the views of the Shenandoah Valley on the Harrisonburg, Virginia campus didn’t hurt.
“I had no bad things to say about it,” Owens said.
Owens would join a James Madison program finding its footing. Sargent is going into just her second year in charge. The Dukes finished sixth out of eight teams at last year’s Colonial Athletic Conference Championships.
Owens is coming off a breakout sophomore season. She was expected to contribute to Lambert’s quest for a fourth consecutive state championship last season behind seniors Lauren Lightfritz (Mercer) and Kayley Marschke (Auburn). As a freshman, she’d shot an 81 during state title No. 3.
Instead, Owens led the way, shooting a tournament-best 73, a tick better than her 74.3 tournament average during the season. Lambert’s fourth straight state title was the second for Owens, who was named the Forsyth County News’ Girl Golfer of the Year.
Owens was in contact with her top three colleges throughout that school year. Per NCAA recruiting rules, which restrict college golf coaches from initiating contact with recruits until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school, it was up to her to make calls or write emails, leaving her a bit uneasy at times about where she stood with each program.
Except for James Madison.
“They were always upfront with me and very honest with where I was,” Owens said, “and I liked that about those coaches. They made the process easy for me with their honesty. It definitely helped me know where I was.”
After Sargent’s call with the scholarship offer, Owens knew her answer, but her parents implored her to wait. They had questions for Owens’ potential future college coach.
“I was begging them all weekend,” Owens said.
Finally, on Monday, the wait was over.