ENGLEWOOD – It was a day for Kerigan Klauber that she could best describe as bittersweet.

As arguably the most decorated girl to ever play golf at McMinn Central, the senior signed a national letter of intent to continue her education and athletic career at the University of North Alabama at the Division I level. of the NCAA.

Klauber’s signing ceremony on Wednesday at Central High School marked the third anniversary of the death of his grandfather, Raymond Handley, a man who introduced Klauber to golf from a young age and taught him many lessons over the years about golf and life before he passed away in his freshman year.

“It really means a lot, just having him (grandpa) there, helping me along the way,” Klauber said after signing. “He’s taught me so much on and off the golf course.

“So it’s a bittersweet day, but I know he’s here, and I know he’s proud of me, and it’s just an experience I wouldn’t give up.”

Klauber’s grandfather’s influence on her childhood, as well as the talent she developed on the golf course, was evident to Central’s assistant coach Bob Lambert, long before Klauber even began his studies. secondary.

“He had a huge influence on Kerigan,” said Lambert, who assisted Coach Klauber during his four years at Central. “He brought her out at a young age, and just watching her grow up hitting balls, I thought, ‘Lord, if she could come to Central, that would make us really, really strong. And we were lucky that she could come and play for us. It has grown from year to year here and just kept improving, and I think if there has ever been a child who worked there. She hit balls pretty much every day.

“And I was so happy to have her here to represent Central High School as a woman first and then as a golfer because the kids who played with her loved to play with her.”

Center head coach Daniel Curtis, who coached Klauber his last two years, noted that it also takes community to nurture a student-athlete’s success, and Klauber did. Ridgewood Golf Club owners Tammy and Bryan Ford always let Klauber hit the course at all times.

“(Division I) in everything that matters, especially in a small town like this,” Curtis said. “It just shows the work she put into it and the time she put into it and the people who helped her. She had a great support staff, and thanks to Ms Tammy and Bryan for letting her take the course all the time, so we’re ecstatic about the death of what happened. She can’t be that good on her own. It takes a community, but she put in her share of the work and people took care of her.

Of her own growth in golf while at Central, Klauber believes she went from being someone who just hit balls on the course to being a true player in the game.

“My first year I played golf, but I was not what you would call a player. I just went over there and hit golf balls, ”Klauber said. “But I’ve really grown over the last four years, and now I know how to play and how to be a player. I know when something is working, when something is not working, and I could definitely see myself growing up.

This maturation was evident as Klauber progressed in his high school golf career. She has been a district medalist all four years and a regional finalist the last three years.

Klauber has also competed in the TSSAA State Tournament for his last three years, placing 26th in his sophomore year, then finished his junior season in 10th place and ended his career at Central this fall with a sixth. square.

Along the way, Klauber set individual nine-hole school records. Klauber was the first Central girl to draw a nine-hole tie in her first year, a feat she repeated twice. Then, her senior season, Klauber became the first Central girl to shoot a nine-hole under par with a 33.

“Coming into my freshman year, I just wanted to play,” Klauber said. “I didn’t think about breaking records or anything in school, and now I did and I feel like it’s a really huge accomplishment.”

While Klauber thinks she’s always been good off the tee, this was the little game where she saw she needed to improve, and she credits her success to the work she put into that part.

“I’ve always been a long hitter, so I’m proud of it now, and my short game has come a long way,” Klauber said. “It really helped me reach this level.

This is something Curtis also noticed about Klauber, as well as the way she behaved on the course.

“I’m just blessed to have him on the program and on the team, and I don’t think it gets any better,” Curtis said. “She’s been golden for us in terms of character, golf and a great family.

“His putting has improved a lot this year. Her behavior improved a lot, she wasn’t so frustrated. And it’s going to happen, you’re going to be frustrated, but she resisted a lot.

North Alabama had been the only Division I school that Klauber spoke with when recruiting. Mississippi College and Carson-Newman were also on her list, but she narrowed it down between North Alabama and Union University in Jackson. Klauber’s two finalists had been in his head for about a week before choosing the Florence, Alabama school, which has more than 8,800 students this fall.

Northern Alabama’s proximity to two prime courses, the RTJ Golf Trail at Muscle Shoals and Turtle Point, also helped make Klauber’s decision final.

“We tried to weigh all of our options and they came out about equal,” Klauber said. “But I just decided to get out of my comfort zone and go to a bigger school. And they had two wonderful golf courses that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play on.

Klauber also said she had a “fun story” of how her decision was made final, which happened as she and her family were traveling to visit another potential destination school in the city. ‘Indiana.

“We passed an exit that said ‘Union’ and ‘Florence’, and Florence is where this school is located,” Klauber said. “And we got off at the exit and the next sign we see is a big water tower that says’ Florence ‘and I said,’ All of you, that might be a sign. “

Klauber is undecided on an exact major, but he’s sure “it’s going to take a lot of math.” When it comes to preparing for competition at the Division I level, Klauber will continue to do the same work that led to his success at Central.

“Obviously I’ll always be focusing on my short game,” Klauber said. “I still have work to do on this. But I think once I get this under control, I’ll be a good player and be able to compete with some of the best in Division I, and I can’t wait to be there.