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

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MONTAGUE — Making pressure putts and clutch golf shots shouldn’t be a big deal for Natalie Kellogg now.

Alongside her father, the Montague eldest twice took on the grueling challenge of the Au Sable Canoe Marathon, a 120-mile nighttime race that begins in Grayling and ends in Oscoda. During the race this summer, their canoe overturned in the wee hours of the morning.

“It was about 4:30 a.m., 5 a.m., about there, six hours later it was 47 degrees,” recalls Mike Kellogg, Natalie’s father. “I couldn’t get back in the canoe, I had to swim to shore. We swam for 15, 20 minutes. …

“We got back in the canoe and headed back. We gave her a good hour and she was hypothermic and hurting all over and I finally called her. This kid, for lack of a better term, she’s got it (guts). She’s a competitor.

He’s the person Montague girls’ golf coach Phil Kerr got to know.

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

This season, Kellogg and the excellent junior Mackenzie Goudreau are the only survivors of the regular formation of last year. In her senior season in high school, the time has come for Kellogg to step into the lead role and she has done so, albeit in a calmer style.

CatchMark and courtesy photos

“She leads by example but is also a voice for less experienced girls,” Kerr said. “Natalie believes in this team and took pride in her new role, constantly speaking positively to the other girls and lifting their spirits.

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

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

Recently, Kellogg tied his personal-best nine-hole 37 to finish first at a Western 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. It’s a big difference,” Kellogg said. “I think the problem was that I had very high highs and very low lows and my emotions were getting the better of me.

“This year, I have already seen it. I was really good at keeping my emotions in check and staying flat throughout the run.

Kellogg couldn’t break through the starting lineup in sophomore year. Kerr acknowledged it was difficult to keep her out of Montague’s “stacked” lineup, but Kellogg supported her teammates along the way.

Montague golfer Natalie Kellogg hugs coach Phil Kerr as the Wildcats win a second straight Division 4 State Championship on Saturday, October 16, 2021 at Forest Akers East in East Lansing, Michigan (Photo courtesy)

Kerr believes that motivated Kellogg to work hard on her golf game during the summer of 2021. She also trained extremely hard for canoe racing, the golf coach said. She’s shown to be noticeably fitter and physically stronger for her junior golf season, ready to take the next step, Kerr said.

Kellogg admitted the Wildcats felt pressure last year to defend their title, but all their hard work paid off. She received Division 4 honorable mentions for her strong junior season.

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

“This year, it’s me and Mac leading the team. I think this year there’s added pressure because I know everyone else on the team is looking to me for leadership. I think most of the time I handle it well and I get a lot of support from my teammates and my coach. I think most of the time it goes well.

Courtesy pictures

Kellogg, 18, is inspired by his parents. His mother, Tressa Kellogg, is a nurse practitioner. Thanks to the example of her mother, Natalie Kellogg envisions a career in the medical field.

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

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

“It’s still the father-daughter relationship, but there’s also a great friendship. We talk about everything, everything. There are no off-topics,” Mike Kellogg said. It’s really cool that we’re connected like we did.”

Courtesy pictures

Canoe racing is in the blood of the Kellogg family. It all 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 Race derived from the canoe racing careers of Jerry and his brother Jeff.

Natalie Kellogg said her grandfather, Jerry, completed the Au Sable Canoe Marathon about 16 times and won it four times, which is no small feat.

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

“The only problem I had, when it’s foggy and there are flashlights on the boat because it’s night, I got dizzy so I got dizzy , nausea. We had to stop for about 10 minutes. I threw up 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 races.

She may not be demonstrative in her actions, but she has shown mental toughness in the canoe many times, her father said, and it shows on the golf course as well.

“She said after the first year we raced, she said, ‘I know I can do anything. If I can do that, I can do anything,” said Mike Kellogg, who made the golf connection. “A bad hole is not the wreckage of a round.”

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