Westminster's Jordan McKelvin is on a winning course, on and off the greens

Jordan McKelvin first fell in love with golf at age 2. She received a plastic set of golf clubs as a gift from her great-aunt, and she rarely put them down.

By the time she turned 5, visits to the driving range with her dad became commonplace.

She isn't playing with toy clubs any more. In just her second year of high school competition, McKelvin's skill has made the Westminster sophomore one of the state's best golfers. And her work in school and the community has achieved equally high marks.

McKelvin wasn't an unknown when she came to Westminster High. Owl golf coach Nick DePace recognized that he was getting a golfer who had performed well on the youth circuit.

"I knew that Jordan was coming my way, and I was really excited," said DePace, now in his seventh year as Westminster's head coach. "And when she got here, Jordan fit right in."

It didn't take McKelvin long to prove that she belonged. In her freshman year, she posted the third-best scoring average (39.6 strokes per nine holes) among all county golfers and played an integral role in the Owls' march to the Carroll County championship and a fourth-place team finish at the state tournament.

In the state girls' individual competition, McKelvin placed third, just one stroke out of second place.

"Every year I set new goals for myself," she said. "I want to drive myself to be better, and I get better by practicing so much. My main goal is to get first in the county."

A year after her impressive debut, McKelvin has made significant strides. Her distance on tee shots has risen from an average of 215 yards as a freshman to 245 yards this fall. McKelvin has lowered her stroke average to 37.7, good for second in the county behind North Carroll senior Sam Clark. Named a team co-captain along with senior Blake Brown, she has earned medalist honors three times while leading the Owls to a 13-4 record.

"It's the way she carries herself," said DePace of his decision to make McKelvin a team captain despite her sophomore status. "She is big on leading by example, and doesn't have to say much to be a team leader. Her teammates trust and respect Jordan, and they realize that she knows what it takes for us to get to a higher level."

DePace also sees significant improvement in her game.

"She's hitting the ball farther," he said. "Her striking, with both driver and irons, is more accurate. She drives so well, and rarely gets into trouble."

McKelvin doesn't take much time off. During the spring and summer, she concentrates solely on her juniors' competition. In late June, she finished third at the Hank Haney Junior Tournament in Hilton Head, S.C.

She credits DePace and several other coaches for helping her to excel. McKelvin mentioned coach Kathy Franz, who she worked with before high school, and Joe Plecker, her current coach at the Baltimore Country Club, for their commitment in making her a complete golfer who understands every aspect of the game.

"Kathy Franz really paved the way for me," said McKelvin. "We still talk, and she helps me to this day. Joe is a great coach who can still take me farther."

While McKelvin also played shooting guard on the Owls' freshman basketball team last winter, golf remains her favorite. She appreciates the differences between the sports.

"Golf is so much different than basketball," said McKelvin, whose sister, Cam, is a freshman at Westminster. "On the golf course, I'm away from everybody, with no one yelling in my ear. Golf allows me to set goals for myself.

"I used to be so shy when I was younger, but once I started playing tournaments in North Carolina and South Carolina, it was like a whole new Jordan appeared. I talk to everybody now, and I love meeting new people," she said.

She is very appreciative of her family's support in a sport that requires a frequent amount of travel. McKelvin, who plays in about 30 tournaments a year, is accompanied by her parents, Mike and Sandy, and her grandfather, Bill "Pop" McKelvin.

Birdies for Babies

McKelvin isn't driven by golf alone. She excels in the classroom, carrying a 4.1 weighted grade point average while taking a mix of Advanced Placement and Honors courses.

Her caring nature led McKelvin to establish Birdies for Babies, a charity that benefits the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. For each birdie the 15-year old McKelvin makes in her high school matches and junior tournaments, donors can pledge a certain amount. Birdies for Babies has already raised $2,700 toward a goal of $7,500.

The idea took hold last winter. McKelvin and her parents talked about what she could do for the smallest patients at Johns Hopkins. They met with Denise Goode, the associate director of development at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

"I felt that if I could enjoy this sport so much and people who are at Johns Hopkins can't, then I really need to share what I love to do," said McKelvin. "I love children, so it was a personal thing to me."

A short time later, the Birdies for Babies logo, which was designed by former Westminster student-athlete Meghan Macera, was put on T-shirts and on the Jordan McKelvin Golf page on Facebook. Visitors to McKelvin's Facebook page can click on the http://www.helpmakemiracles.org icon, which will take them to the Birdies for Babies site to make a donation.

All funds raised will help support the needs of ill and injured babies at Johns Hopkins. Donations go toward specialized medical equipment, prevention and care programs, Child Life staff, an emergency fund for families that helps with food, clothing, medical supplies and rehabilitation, and several other critical areas.

"I was at a match a while ago, and another coach came up to me. His grandson was in the Johns Hopkins Children's Center for four months, and he just wanted to thank me for everything that I did," she said. "That meant a lot, to know that people are seeing me doing this for Hopkins. But it's not about me, and I don't want it to seem that way."

McKelvin's kind-hearted approach to life doesn't surprise her Westminster golf coach. DePace marvels at his co-captain's energy, on and off the course.

"I don't know how she does all that she does," said DePace. "Jordan is as good a human being as she is a golfer. It's amazing that at 14, she had already figured a unique way to give back."

As McKelvin and her teammates prepare for the district match this week at Black Rock in Hagerstown and the state tournament in late October, she already envisions a collegiate golf career. But she doesn't know if the LPGA tour would be for her. At this point, McKelvin is thinking about coaching youth players after college.

"Right now, (the LPGA) isn't the goal for me," said McKelvin, whose favorite pro golfer is LPGA veteran Paula Creamer. "I have a friend who wants to go to the LPGA tour, and her parents put her in the Hank Haney Academy to make her better and make sure that she plays on the tour. But that's not me. I'd rather coach and help kids."

Considering her early success, it's easy to see that McKelvin may finish as one of the finest golfers in Westminster's history. DePace won't argue that point.

"I've had good players before," he said. "But I told Jordan that when all is said and done, she might be the best player I've ever coached. At her junior golf events, there are already major Division I colleges watching her play. I can't wait to see where she goes with golf."

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