Ask Kit Creighton what she feels she needs to improve on and she will say pretty much everything.
“I’m still behind the eight ball so every day it’s taking it a step farther,” the 18-year-old said. “I started late. I’ve been playing for three years.”
Creighton has been playing since she was 15, which may seem late in the game compared with some of her contemporaries.
But she is part of the new generation of women’s golf in Western New York. In the past decade, more programs and tournaments along with better coaching have become available to girls in the area.
That means a different set of opportunities for a new generation, one that dominated the leader board at the 11th Buffalo District Golf Association individual championship.
At Tan Tara Country Club on Friday, Creighton held steady on wet grounds to win her first BDGA women’s title, shooting a two-day total of 145. The 2012 Nardin graduate shot an even-par round of 72 on Thursday and followed that with a 1-over 73 on Friday.
The next five golfers on the leader board are all still enjoying their high school careers.
Chelsea Dantonio finished four strokes behind Creighton, carding a 149.
Dantonio just finished her sophomore season at Lancaster and was fourth in the New York State Federation Girls Golf Championship.
Tied for third were Sarah Riso, a member of the Class of 2015 at Mount Mercy, and Molly Balbierz, who will be a junior at Frontier this fall. Sarah Godfrey-Singleton (Depew) and Victoria Parker (Sacred Heart) tied for seventh place.
The youth movement is filled with talent and taking advantage of the opportunities other women didn’t have. Kathy Hunt, a two-time BDGA women’s individual champion, said that as she turns 60 this year, she sees a definite changing of the guard.
“I know I’m moving on. The kids are moving up. And they’re wonderful,” said Hunt, who finished 14th in the field with a two-round total of 163. “They’re wonderful golfers. They’re gracious competitors. They’re very good out there and they know how to handle themselves.
“These girls start at a very young age where most of us didn’t. … We started in our late 20s or I started in my late 30s. So we came up a different way."
Creighton was a Section VI runner-up her senior year at Nardin when she decided to leave soccer, lacrosse and basketball to focus on golf. The work led her to Florida Southern, where she played in five events as a freshman at the Division II school in Lakeland, Fla.
“I contributed a bit to the team so it was a great experience,” Creighton said of her freshman year. “I love the team. I love it down there. I played soccer all my life so to be on a team again is great.
“The weather, it’s very cliche to say, ‘Oh yeah, you’re going down to Florida. You’re going to play golf in great weather.’ But actually waking up and it’s 72 and you get to play golf after class is awesome. It’s unbelievable. I love it.”
This week, she constructed two solid rounds, getting tripped up both days on No. 16. On Thursday, she double-bogeyed the par-4, 327-yard hole. On Friday, she dropped a stroke there with a bogey. But for Creighton, it’s about keeping her composure and staying focused.
“The weather held for us until the back nine when it started to rain a little bit, which played a factor,” Creighton said. “But I just tried to stay consistent and focused, ignoring the conditions that I couldn’t control.
“I started off with a bogey … then I was just consistent. A few birdies in there, no more bogeys until 16. I went bogey-bogey 16 and 17 so I just wanted to screw my head on for 18 and finish strong.”
Staying focused is a characteristic Hunt notices in the younger golfers.
“They get up, they just hit the ball and they have no fear,” Hunt said. “I hesitate at certain times, and I know I shouldn’t, but they have this great, intense ability to be able to concentrate, go ahead and swing.”
Does Creighton think she has no fear on the golf course?
“That’s what I’d like to feel,” she said with a laugh. “If you have that, then you’re set and have a lot of confidence in your game. That’s what I’m trying to strive for.”