Sperry adds golf to her impressive list of athletic accomplishments

Aug. 27—FRANKTON — One of the biggest surprises during the early weeks of the 2023 fall sports season in Madison County should not be surprising at all given the immense athletic talent of Frankton senior Emma Sperry.

She is the leading scorer for the girls basketball team and a top player for three consecutive 20-win volleyball seasons and will continue her hoops career collegiately at Grace College next year.

But before this year, she had never donned the Frankton red and white for the Eagles golf team and, before a year ago, she had never seriously played the game.

However, playing with her mother’s golf clubs, Sperry has consistently been one of the top players for the Eagles and was named All-Madison County after a top-six finish at last week’s tournament at Grandview.

And she may not have joined the team had it not been for some convincing from Frankton golf coach Jeff Bates following a chance encounter at the Elwood Golf Links last spring while playing with friend Isaac Fair, a Frankton middle-school player Sperry regularly golfs with.

“The plan was just to play in my free time and have fun with it, but then (Bates) caught me on the golf course,” Sperry said. “He kept pushing, and I finally went to a golf open practice, and it just kind of went from there.”

“I looked around and I said, ‘Who is that playing with our middle-school player over there? One of my boys players said, ‘Oh, that’s Emma,'” Bates recalled. “None of (boys players) knew (she played), either, so I turned around on my golf cart and went straight out and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ And the rest is history from there.”

Sperry opened the season with a 41 at Oak Hill and played the back nine at the South Adams Invitational in 39 strokes and tied for fourth at the county tournament with a 91.

Until recently, she was putting up good numbers with 30-year-old golf clubs, fitted for her mother — Frankton volleyball coach Beth Sperry — by her grandfather and former Hamilton Heights golf coach Jan Hoch.

Those Wildfire clubs have remained intact despite being pulled from an unlikely storage location and not designed for a player with Sperry’s swing speed, which yields extraordinary length off the tee.

“It was really unique, especially since I didn’t do terrible with them,” Emma said. “They’re really hard to hit because they’re so old. I just think it’s really cool that my mom used them 30 years ago and (we got them) out of the barn.”

Her athletic ability is certainly part of the reason for her immediate success at a new sport.

But Bates believes athleticism may take a back seat to the intangibles Sperry possesses. Her personality coupled with traits that translate from one sport to another are the bigger factors for her early season play.

And being a coach’s daughter probably doesn’t hurt.

“It’s all of that,” Bates said. “What she does in volleyball and in basketball has carried over to out here, and that makes her really good at it.”

Playing golf this fall has presented a challenge for Sperry and her schedule. Team practices are often held early in the morning, so she can play in afternoon matches — making for very long days — and Saturday volleyball matches have been rescheduled to allow for her to play in bigger invitationals. Juggling the schedules will allow for Sperry to play in enough matches to qualify for IHSAA postseason play next month.

But it can be grueling, particularly when playing in the excessive heat of the past week.

“It’s tiring because we had early morning volleyball practice (at) 6 this morning, (coach) scheduled that so I could play,” Sperry said after a recent meet. “I’m exhausted, but golfing is something I get to do. Being able to do this is really nice, really fun and instead of taking it as a pressure thing and being scared when I’m there, I’m just here to have fun.”

For now, Sperry has set aside those Wildfire clubs and will use a borrowed set of Pings, courtesy of the Hobbs family and former Lapel state finalist — and current Indiana State star — Kristen Hobbs.

But the love of the game and the dawn of a lifetime of playing golf came about thanks to a beloved family heirloom.

“I’m so excited about that,” Sperry said. “Sports is such a big part of my life, and I think having something that will last me a long time will be really nice.”

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

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