Daddy's girl - Inspired Blackburn going to Fort Smith
Recent Green Forest High School graduate Kaitlin Blackburn and her father, Ronnie, loved playing golf together.
It was something they could do together and both enjoyed. Kaitlin had a natural talent for the game and before long was shooting better scores than her dad.
Everything changed, however, a year and a half ago when Ronnie suffered a stroke. Ever since then, Ronnie hasn't been well enough to play.
Though he can't play these days, he said the joy he gets watching his daughter accomplish so much in the sport lifts his spirits and helps him feel better even during his worst days.
The illness has motivated Kaitlin as well.
"Once he had the stroke I worked even harder on my golf because I knew that it made him happy to see me do so well," Kaitlin said.
Said Ronnie, "It was pretty emotional. Right after I had the stroke I was in a hospital in Mountain Home. And it just so happened that the state tournament was being held at Mountain Home at the same time. They gave me a one-day pass so I could go and see her play, and she shot the best score in her life."
Ronnie enjoyed another proud moment last week when he watched his daughter sign a scholarship to play golf at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
Kaitlin said the school was a perfect fit for her.
"I really like the coach and the golf program there," she said. "The school is not too big and not too small. Plus, I like how it's close to home."
While her father was Kaitlin's best golfing buddy, she learned the sport from golf professional Phil Poyer.
Poyer said Blackburn was a fast learner. "She was very athletic from the start but I think the best part about her golf game is her mental toughness. She is so strong mentally that she doesn't get too down on herself. If she hits a bad shot, she can shake it off real easily."
Kaitlin said she hopes to keep improving her golf game when she gets to college. This summer she plans on working real hard to make her game as finely-tuned as possible before she gets to school.
"I love playing golf because it's something that you can always keep getting better at," she said.
Along with being an outstanding golfer, Kaitlin is also a great singer. She recently sang during her high school graduation and also performs regularly at her family's restaurant, Cattleman's.
She said she doesn't know what she wants to be when she gets out of college. But rest assure her father will be cheering her on from behind.