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Mental toughness from paddling benefits Montague’s Natalie Kellogg on golf course

Kellogg emerges as senior leader for Wildcats golf team, the back-to-back defending state champ.

MONTAGUE – Making pressure putts and clutch golf shots should be no big deal for Natalie Kellogg by now.

Alongside her father, the Montague senior twice has taken on the grueling challenge of the Au Sable Canoe Marathon, a 120-mile overnight race that starts in Grayling and ends in Oscoda. During the race this summer, their canoe flipped in the wee hours of the morning.

“It was about 4:30, 5 in the morning, about there, six hours into it, it’s 47 degrees,” recalled Mike Kellogg, Natalie’s dad. “Couldn’t get back into the canoe, had to swim for shore. We swam for 15, 20 minutes. …

“We got back in the canoe and we went back at it. We gave it a good hour and she was hypothermic and hurting everywhere and I finally called it. That kid, for a lack of a better term, she’s got some (guts). She’s a competitor.”

That’s the person Montague girls golf coach Phil Kerr has come to know.

Montague captured Division 4 state championships the last two seasons, but they’ve lost key members of those teams to graduation each year. Last fall, Kellogg chipped in for par from about 20 yards on No. 17 at Forest Akers East to help the Wildcats get past Lansing Catholic in a very tight state title chase.

This season, Kellogg and junior standout Mackenzie Goudreau are the lone holdovers from last year’s regular lineup. In her final high school season, the time for Kellogg to take on the leadership role is now and she’s done that, even if her style is more on the quiet side.

CatchMark and courtesy photos

“She leads by example but is also a voice to the less experienced girls,” Kerr said. “Natalie believes in this team and has taken on her new role with pride, constantly talking positively to the other girls and lifting spirits. 

“She does a great job letting them know that even though those other (graduated) girls are gone, this program and this team can still be successful.”

Kerr noted that Kellogg has elevated her golf game while taking the reins. She has been shooting in the mid-80s for 18 holes this season after averaging 92 as a junior and 98 as a sophomore. Her nine-hole average this season is 42.7, which is currently the 14th best scoring average in Division 4, according to Kerr. Goudreau is currently ranked ninth Division 4 with a nine-hole scoring average of 41.9.

Recently, Kellogg tied her personal-best nine-hole score with a 37 to finish first in a West Michigan Conference jamboree at Waters Edge Golf Course in Fremont.

“Last year, I struggled with a wide variety of scores, like shooting 100 at regionals and shooting 86 at state. That’s a big difference,” Kellogg said. “I think that the problem was I was having really high highs and really low lows and my emotions would get the best of me.

“This year, I’ve already seen it. I’ve been really good about keep my emotions in check and just staying flat the whole round.”

Kellogg was unable to crack the starting lineup as a sophomore. Kerr acknowledged that it was tough to keep her out of Montague’s “stacked” lineup, but Kellogg remained supportive of her teammates the entire way.

Montague golfer Natalie Kellogg embraces coach Phil Kerr as the Wildcats win a second-straight Division 4 state championship on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Forest Akers East in East Lansing, Mich. (Courtesy photo)

Kerr believes it motivated Kellogg to work hard on her golf game during the 2021 summer. She also trained extremely hard for canoe racing, the golf coach said. She showed up noticeably more fit and physically stronger for her junior golf season, primed to take the next step, Kerr said.

Kellogg admitted that the Wildcats felt pressure last year defending their title, but all their hard work paid off. She earned Division 4 all-state honorable mention accolades for her strong junior season.

“To look back at what our team has accomplished the last two seasons, it’s kind of crazy,” Kellogg said. “I look back at it and I’m like, ‘Wow, I was part of that.’ I mean, lucky for me last year we had great senior leaders – Gabby (Moreau) and Ori (Bylsma) – and I look up to them a lot.

“This year, it’s me and Mac leading the team. I think that this year there is an added pressure because I know that everybody else on the team is looking up to me for leadership. I think for the most part, I’m handling it well and I get a lot of support from my teammates and my coach. I think for the most part, it’s going well.”

Courtesy photos

Kellogg, 18, draws inspiration from her parents. Her mother, Tressa Kellogg, is a nurse practitioner. Through her mom’s example, Natalie Kellogg is eyeing a career in the medical field.

Kellogg is certainly a focused student. She carries a 4.1 GPA and is taking on a demanding class schedule.

Kellogg is an only child. She said that while sometimes it would be nice to have a sibling, she treasures the quality time shared with both of her parents. Natalie and Mike Kellogg have a special daughter-father relationship and chemistry, further solidified by all the time they’ve spent rowing together in a canoe.

“It’s still the father-daughter relationship, but there’s a big friendship there, too. We talk about anything, everything. There’s no topics that are off-limits,” Mike Kellogg said. “You know, it’s really cool that we’ve connected the way we have.”

Courtesy photos

Canoe racing is in the Kellogg family blood. It started in 1947 with Natalie Kellogg’s great grandfather, Elmer Kellogg. Mike Kellogg’s father, Jerry, continued the tradition and passed it on to his son, who in turn passed it on to his daughter, Natalie – a fourth-generation canoe racer. Kellogg Canoe Racing derived from Jerry and brother Jeff’s canoe racing careers.

Natalie Kellogg said her grandpa, Jerry, has finished the Au Sable Canoe Marathon about 16 times and that he’s won it on four occasions, no small feat.

“You can’t always plan 100 percent because it’s such a long race,” Natalie Kellogg said about the Au Sable. “The first year it took us 17 hours and 40 minutes. For the most part, we were good.

“The one problem I did have, when it gets foggy and there’s flashlights on the boat because it’s at night, I got vertigo so I got super dizzy, super nauseous. We had to stop for like 10 minutes. I puked a few times. I was sick for about the last half of the race.”

Kellogg, who also plays softball, said she plans to continue competing in canoe racing.

She might not be demonstrative in her actions, but she’s exhibited mental toughness in the canoe on plenty of occasions, her father said, and it’s showing up on the golf course, too.

“She said after the first year we raced, she goes, ‘I know I can do anything. If I can do that, I can do anything,’” said Mike Kellogg, who related it to golf. “One bad hole isn’t the wreck of a round.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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