Athlete of the Week: Knaffle lifts Sharks to new heights

sjgolf-knaffle2Smith Knaffle hasn’t yet attended St. James High, but she has already had a huge impact on the school’s girls golf program.

The eighth-grader led the Lady Sharks to a runner-up finish in the Class 3A state tournament, finishing tied for third individually to capture all-state honors. She also helped St. James claim its second straight Lower State championship this season.

In fact, Knaffle and the Lady Sharks are on target to win the program’s first state championship next year, in her freshman year. They finished third in the state in 2013, second in the state in 2014, so logic follows that next year could be THE year.

“We knew we were going to have a good team, but I honestly thought it would take a couple of years to get where we are,” said Knaffle, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week. “As long as we keep building on what we’ve started every year, we should get there.”

Knaffle has been a bit of a golf prodigy since deciding to put away other sports interests and focus on golf. She stopped swimming and plans to skip basketball this season so she can put in more time on the course in hopes of making it in golf.

“My dad is superintendent at the International Club so he always had clubs for me since I was 8,” Knaffle said. “I liked swimming and basketball and tried to play them all, but it’s hard to put down the clubs for two months and pick back up where you were. My goal is to be one of the best in the state and play college and professional so I need to work on my game year-round.”

Especially in the upcoming year, when Knaffle expects St. James to have its best shot at a state title. With junior teammates Kelli Smith and Steely Hays entering their final seasons, the Lady Sharks hope for a state title in 2015 with Knaffle leading the way. She knows she has four years to reach the goal but wants her friends and teammates to experience it too.

“That would be awesome because we all want state championship rings,” Knaffle said. “We;re losing Kelli and Steely after next year and we’ve all come together as a team this year so it would be great to win it with this group. Hopefully, next year is our year.”

And many years to come.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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