With a stroke of the pen, Kickapoo senior Ari Acuff let go of the stress of choosing a college and a career.
Acuff signed a National Letter of Intent to play golf for the U.S. Naval Academy on Wednesday, which put an end to what was a difficult decision-making process.
“It was tough because I had a lot of schools to choose from and I also had to choose between golf or soccer,” Acuff said.
Ultimately, golf won out for the three-time all-state player, who is also the starting goalkeeper on the Kickapoo soccer team and a starting forward for the reigning Class 5 state champion basketball team.
Some schools recruited Acuff for soccer, some recruited her for golf, and others recruited her for both. She decided to concentrate on golf.
“It was just kind of, which one would I miss more?” Acuff said. “I think (golf) is just the sport that better fits me. Overall I like it better and I think it’s something I can improve upon more. I just wasn’t ready for my last tournament.”
Acuff is also vice president of Kickapoo’s student body and is on pace to be a valedictorian when she graduates in May 2017. Academics played a key factor in her decision.
“I think the Naval Academy was overall a great opportunity for me. I think it sets me up for life. Yes, I’m going there to play golf, but I’m also going there to become a leader and become an officer in the Navy, and it really excites me,” Acuff said.
Acuff wants to pursue a career in computer science or cyber operations. She is interested in working in national security or intelligence.
Acuff placed sixth at the state tournament this season at Columbia Country Club. As a junior, she finished in second place, one stroke away from a state championship, at Rivercut. As a sophomore, Acuff placed 14th at the state tournament at Twin Hills Country Club in Joplin.
“(Acuff) is probably the best golfer that Kickapoo has ever seen,” Kickapoo girls golf coach Angie Odom said. “Her list of accomplishments could go on and on for years.”
Odom encouraged Acuff to pursue college golf throughout her high school career.
“She had her choice of assignments,” Odom said. “She is going to play golf at the Naval Academy, which is quite a feat, and she is probably going to be one of the best leaders that they will have.”
Acuff said she will need to work on her mid-range iron play and short game in order to succeed in college golf. She is consistently a long hitter with a driver off the tee.
“I feel like I have the length for college, it’s just more of fine tuning my short game and scoring rather than hitting greens, and getting those few shots lower and dropping a few strokes each round,” Acuff said.
Acuff plans to play out her senior seasons of basketball and soccer at Kickapoo. She will do so with the pressure of choosing her college destination removed.
“I’m excited. I’m glad so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I can kind of just go out for the rest of my senior year and just play basketball and play soccer and not have to worry about anything,” Acuff said.