MISHAWAKA — Kari Bellville is a unique athlete attempting to complete a rare feat in the next six weeks.
Bellville, a senior at Penn, is one of the best high school golfers in Indiana and a member of the top-ranked team in the state.
As the state tournament opens with sectional play on Saturday, Sept. 21, Bellville has a good chance at both an individual and team championship three weeks later at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin
But that’s not all.
Bellville is also a key member of a strong Penn soccer team which will begin sectional play two days after the state golf championship.
It’s all in a month’s work for Bellville, who has earned an athletic and academic scholarship to play golf at the University of Notre Dame beginning next fall.
“In junior high, I played golf, tennis and soccer, but when I got to high school, my parents said I should concentrate on just two sports,” Bellville said. “I think they secretly hoped I’d pick tennis and golf so one sport would be in the fall and the other in the spring. But I really loved soccer and golf was probably my best sport, so when I chose those two, everyone started working together to make it happen for me.”
According to Bellville, the two sports offer her the best of both worlds when it comes to competition.
“I love my golf teammates and obviously we have an important team goal out there in a few weeks,” Bellville said. “But golf is also an individual game that takes a lot of mental concentration.
“But soccer is the ultimate in team sports, where you can go out, play physically and hit people. That’s something they frown on in golf.”
On days when both teams are just practicing, Bellville will go to soccer practice from 4 to 5:30 p.m., get home at 6 p.m. and be on the Knollwood golf course practicing her golf game from 6:30 till 8:30 — or at least until darkness hits.
So what happens when the teams are playing on the same day? Penn golf coach Jim Garrett says teamwork among the programs has never been an issue.
“We’ll get together before the season starts and look at the schedule to try and come up with a game plan,” Garrett said. “Golf may take precedent, but we have a really deep team and if soccer has a big game on the same day as we have a match, I don’t have a problem with Kari playing soccer that day. The real key part of their schedule is the state tournament and that comes after we’re finished anyway.”
In addition to playing for both an individual and team state title in golf, Bellville can become a four-time all-state selection and will have a strong resume for the state mental attitude award.
So with all that possible success out there, does Bellville worry about a soccer injury taking it all away.
“Honestly, it’s not something I worry about,” Bellville says. “I try to make sure to stretch, eat well before the game then just go out and play. To me, if you worry about it, that’s when you’ll get hurt.”
After struggling on the second day of the state finals last fall, Bellville finished in a tie for eighth after entering the second day in third place.
However, both player and coach believe things will be different in 2013.
“Kari has a tremendous work ethic and with another year of maturity, she should be ready to really compete for the title,” Garrett said. “Plus, she’s played against some great competition in the past year and that will do nothing but help her.”
“I do feel more prepared, a bit wiser and calmer this year,’’ Bellville added. “I’ve learned that if I had a bad shot or a bad hole early in the match, there is plenty of time left to make up for it. I feel very confident and can’t wait to get started.”
Since her disappointing final round last October, Bellville has been preparing to get back to the finals and play better. She has played numerous tournaments — including the Symetra Tour Four Winds Invitational, a professional event at the Blackthorn Golf Course in South Bend.
“During the month of July, I barely set foot in the state of Indiana because of all the tournaments I was playing on the weekends,” Bellville said. “But playing in the Symetra event the last two years was just an amazing experience. It gave me a chance to talk to a lot of great golfers who are just trying to make it up to the LPGA.
“I would love to give professional golf a shot sometime in the future, but I still have a lot ahead of me, starting with finishing high school strong and then going to Notre Dame and seeing what I can do at the college level, both athletically and academically.”