Story by Mallory Tucker, Staff writer
Some leaders are loud, outspoken and enthusiastic. Some leaders are quiet, reserved and logical.
All successful leaders must lead by example, which is exactly what juniors Abbi Stamper and Sophie Hillier plan to do when they return in the fall as captains of the 2015-16 women’s golf team.
“They are two completely different personalities, which is what you want in a captain,” said Head Coach Velvet Milkman. “You don’t want captains to be the same person. Different personalities gravitate toward different people. So yes, Abbi is the more outgoing one, the more bubbly one. She’s the one beforehand high-fiving and saying, ‘We got this.’ Sophie is the more reserved, but leads by example. You will not find anyone that works any harder than her. And people are very comfortable going and talking to her, as well.”
Over the summer, both women will play in various tournaments without the stress of balancing schoolwork. Hillier will return to Sandy, England and Stamper to Frankfort, Ky., where they will both try to improve their scores by two strokes, the goal Milkman assigned to both before beginning fall golf.
As an international student, Hillier believes playing collegiate golf will make her a better person going into the real world. In England, collegiate athletics are not commonplace, as university is the only focus for students.
This work ethic shows in Hillier’s grades, as she’s always made straight A’s. Her parents visit the U.S. once a semester to watch her play, and she says throughout her three years at Murray State, the homesickness has subsided and the time between visits home flies by more quickly.
Stamper, a Kentucky native, attributes her golf career to her father and older sister, Kelli.
Her father and his buddies would play a round every Sunday, and she begged to join them. Her father gave in when she was around age 12, and when she started beating the men from the red tees, Stamper moved back to join them. Her older sister, who played division I basketball, is who inspired her to pursue a collegiate athletics career, and now she could never imagine a life without golf.
Just a few weeks out of the 2015 OVC Championship, the girls are locked and loaded, focusing on next year’s championship already.
“They’ve won a championship,” Milkman said. “They want another one before they leave. It’s really exciting to know that they’re hungry for that championship.”
Stamper’s motivation came from watching Eastern Kentucky claim the title April 22 in Owens Cross Roads, Ala.
“When you watch someone else take the trophy, it really puts an image in your head that you don’t like,” Stamper said. “And it really kind of makes your heart sink pretty far down. So for me, I’m going to go off that feeling that we had of not winning. I don’t ever want to feel that again. That drives me to get better and to get my teammates in it.”
Hillier has no doubt that the Racers will return ready and able to take home the title next year, and others have told her the same.
“I feel like we’ll be stronger next year,” Hillier said. “We’ll all get better. I feel like we could definitely win it. And people have said that to me that I was playing with at OVC. They were like, ‘You’re a young team. Next year, you guys are going to be a force to be reckoned with.’ That’s fun, to know people are thinking that.”