Golf and tennis are two sports that are fairly dissimilar.
But at Kapaun Mount Carmel, the sports have a common bond of sibling champions.
Emma Whitaker tied for the Class 5A golf title in 2015 and won it outright last year as a senior. She is a freshman at Oklahoma State.
Her sister Clara, a Kapaun freshman, already has carved a name for herself and will seek to join her sister as a 5A champion Saturday at Maize South.
Clara Whitaker said she thought about golf, but it didn’t click with her the way tennis has.
She already has a City League singles title and last week won the 5A regional at Goddard – each time defeating Bishop Carroll junior Brittany Steven, the 2016 City League singles champ.
At City League, Whitaker scrapped and pulled out a close victory. Last weekend she cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 triumph.
“I was playing really well, and things were really clicking,” she said. “I was so pumped up. Mentally, I felt like I could run a mile after the match, but physically I couldn’t because my legs were tired.”
The matches with Steven – including a victory during the dual meet – are some of her favorite ones from this season, Whitaker said.
“Every match with her is fun,” she said. “I really like playing her, because it’s just good competition. And you never know, because (the match) could go either way.”
At the regional, Whitaker was as good as she could be, Kapaun girls tennis coach Kathy Schulte said.
“She just couldn’t miss,” Schulte said. “She was forcing Brittany into errors and running her all over the place. It was amazing. She was ‘in the zone’ last Saturday.”
The state tournament will not be easy, Whitaker said. She said she’s prepared to handle anything that comes her way.
“Just go with the flow, because I know every match is going to be tough,” she said. “I’ve just got to play my game.”
A couple players from outside the Wichita area to watch will be St. James Academy senior Catherine Rieke and DeSoto sophomore Issa Sullivan, who were second and third, respectively, in 5A last year.
“There’s a lot of obstacles in the singles field,” Schulte said. “There’s a lot of competition that will come down to who plays the best on that day. You can’t rely on your old matches or what you did before. You’ve got to do it again or even do it better.”
So how to explain this Kapaun tie-in with golf and tennis, which also includes Abby Stevens )5A tennis champion in 2011) and her brother Sam (5A golf crowns in 2012, 2013 and 2014)?
“To some extent, the sports – some people call them ‘country club sports’ – are more individual sports, and some families lean more toward individual sports in general,” Schulte said.
“They’re also, in my opinion, kind of ‘smart sports’ that have a little more critical thinking and adjustments going on. You don’t have teammates helping you making those choices.”
Schulte said Whitaker’s season went beyond her expectations as a coach.
“Honestly, I knew she was a really great player,” Schulte said. “I had hopes, but she has exceeded my hopes just by being a freshman. (Freshmen) are smaller and usually weaker, which is not the case with her at all.”
Schulte points to Whitaker’s maturity and confidence – and that might just run in the family.
“She seems to have both of those already,” Schulte said. “I didn’t coach Emma, but she was in my classroom as an aide, and she did have just a good confidence about her.
“Whatever the parents are doing, they need to bottle and sell it, because it’s just fantastic.”
Plus, with Emma and Clara in different sports, there isn’t the ominous shadow cast by an older sibling.
“I think that’s kind of nice that they have their own thing,” Schulte said.