Golf has taken Kendel Abrams to places she never would have dreamed. She has met President Barack Obama, as well as golfers Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. She competes in national and regional events and carries a 9 handicap. She has won tournaments, and has served as a standard-bearer on the PGA tour.
That's not bad for a 13-year-old who didn't like golf five years ago.
"She disliked the sport and called it an old man's game," said Kendel's father, Ken Abrams. "Then one day, she told me, 'I think I can beat him,' referring to her brother, Khalil. That was the motivation. Golf has taken her so many places."
Kendel beat her brother, a good golfer in his own right, and since then, she has won the Jimmy Flattery Jr. Youth Golf Tournament four times. She also won a U.S. Kids for Golf tournament in 2013, and a qualifier tournament in Bowie to compete in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships during the summer of 2013.
This year, she won the Optimist International Qualifier June 14 in Upper Marlboro. The Tiger Woods Foundation selected her to be a standard-bearer at Congressional Country Club for the President's Cup in June. She and her brother attended a reception for the tournament at the White House.
Kendel was also chosen to be a standard-bearer at the LPGA International Crown, which will be held July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. She said she was looking forward to it.
"I like being around the pros and see how they handle the pressure," she said. "I learn things. It's cool to be with them."
Kendel completed eighth grade and will attend Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore during the 2014-15 school year.
"She's a perfectionist," Ken said. "She learns from her mistakes. After tournaments, we talk about what she needs to work on. She learns and stays focused. We talk about course management, knowing how and where to hit the ball."
After the first round at the Pennsylvania Women's State Golf Association Junior Girls' Championship in Hershey, Pa., Kendel shot an 83 and placed eighth out of 28 on the first day, going against girls aged 14-17.
"I don't exactly agree with my dad," Kendel said. "I strive for perfection -- in school, I definitely do -- but I know I can't be perfect in golf. But I try."
During the summer, she practices every day, and her game continues to improve.
"She can really strike the ball off the tee," said Matt Bassler, program director of The First Tee, a youth development program in Baltimore that teaches life skills, healthy habits and leadership through golf. "She hits it as good as any young girl I've seen."
Off the greens, Kendel is making a contribution to the Baltimore community.
She is currently helping to develop a Golf for Girls program in Baltimore City in partnership with The First Tee of Baltimore, Bassler said.
"Her goal is to grow girls' golf," he said. "One of the reasons she's doing this is to find more girls to play with. It's a struggle. She also mentors young girls."
Kendel has been awarded a grant from the Youth As Resources program in Baltimore.
"The youth judges were skeptical at first as to how golf addresses a critical need in the community," said Julie Reeder, director of Youth As Resources. "Kendel has terrific leadership skills. She was very convincing in her presentation as to how golf builds self-esteem and develops professional skills. It's a way to get a college scholarship. She was genuinely concerned for the girls."
Kendel said she dreamed of one day playing on the LPGA Tour.
"Yes, I do," Kendel said. "I'm going to stay focused and positive. I like the challenge. I don't want anything easy."