Most golfers go throughout their lives without ever getting a hole in one. Actuaries have calculated that the chance of an average golfer making a hole in one is about 12,500 to 1.
Samantha Nichols, senior, beat the odds and made history on Monday, Oct. 7 during a major competition at the SLIAC Championship.
She is the first Prairie Fire golfer ever to make a hole in one in this event. This is not surprising, as Nichols has had a very successful career in golf.
Nichols was off to a rough start in the championship, posting higher scores than she wanted, but was able to persevere and on the 14th hole, was rewarded with her historic hole in one. At the end of the first day, Nichols posted an 84, which placed her in 14th place overall. Women’s Golf coach, K.C. Harding, said, “It’s neat to know that a Knox athlete, let alone that it’s Sam, marked her place in history, so it was pretty special.”
It was a day to remember for Nichols, mentioning that it was a surreal feeling to get a hole in one. “Once it finally kicked in and I realized what had happened, I cried tears of joy. I picked up the ball and saw the looks on my parents’ faces and was so glad they got to be there for it,” Nichols said.
As her competitors at that hole finished and they all proceeded to the next hole, she saw junior Shelby Keen. Nichols ran straight to Shelby and received a warm welcome from both of her coaches and Director of Athletics Daniella Irle. Nichols is happy that she could share the special day with her teammates, coaches and parents.
Nichols continued to play well the next day and finished 9th overall in the SLIAC Championship. Beyond the hole in one she is also the first Knox Women’s Golfer to earn All Conference for all four years. It wasn’t always easy for Nichols, as she faced some challenges throughout her career. “She could’ve ended her season two years ago, but decided to get the surgery on her wrist. She could’ve hung up the clubs a long time ago, but she fought through it and never used it as an excuse,” Harding said.
Playing through an injury is difficult and it can take a toll on the body both physically and mentally, proving how resilient Nichols was in her time at Knox.
Looking back on her college career, Nichols is most proud of her teammates and the golf program this year. “To be recognized with the team sportsmanship award for the conference is such a good feeling. We have such a good bond as teammates and there is no one I’d rather spend my senior season with,” Nichols said.
This was the first time that the Knox Women’s Golf team was able to qualify and compete as a team this year, and it is likely that this program is going to continue to grow and rise. The Prairie Fire will be looking at Keen to continue to lead this program. Keen finished 3rd overall in the SLIAC Championship and earned all conference. In addition to earning all conference, Keen was named SLIAC Women’s Golf Player of the Week in October, in recognition of her first place finish at the Illinois College Invite. Keen and Nichols both finished inside the top 10 in every event they placed this season.