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Thursday, Jan 16 2014 11:18 PM

Stockdale's Keene, from a golfing family, takes top All-Area honor

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    By ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

    Stockdale's Lexi Keene watches her putt during the Girl's Valley Team Golf Championship held in Lemoore, Calif. on Tuesday afternoon, October 29, 2013.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Stockdale's Lexi Keene chips out of the trap on 8 during the SWYL mini tournament at North Kern Golf Course.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

It should surprise no one in the Kern County golf community that Lexi Keene has turned into a pretty good golfer.

The Keene name is synonymous with quality golf in this area.

Related Info

AWARD WINNERS

GIRLS GOLFER OF THE YEAR

Lexi Keene, freshman, Stockdale

COACH OF THE YEAR

Tony Mills,Liberty

Her uncle Dale has been one of the top players in the county with several victories in the annual Kern County and Bakersfield City amateur tournaments.

Her brother Bryce was The Californian's All-Area Boys Golfer of the Year in 2011 and competes on the U.S. Naval Academy's team.

Father Jim has been an avid golfer for years. Now Stockdale athletic director, he is a former golf coach for the Mustangs.

A freshman at Stockdale, Lexi Keene was named named BVarsity Girls Golfer of the Year after leading the Southwest Yosemite League with an 80.0 stroke average.

She won the area meet with a 75, she had the lowest local round in the team section finals (73) and shot 82 at the section individual finals to reach the Southern California Regional, where she tied for the low round by local players with an 81.

With all of those golfers in the family, and living in a home adjacent to Seven Oaks Country Club, one would think Lexi's been playing golf since she was an infant.

Nope. Only about two years.

"She was a dancer, a ballerina, a ballet dancer, and she was very good at that," said her father, Jim.

Lexi's dancing days are over. Now it's all about golf.

"I probably play three or four times a week," Lexi said. "I practice every day, close to 40 hours a week -- chipping, putting, hitting the ball on the green."

On a recent Saturday, she spent half the day on the course, then came home to prepare for her first winter formal.

"I go to school and I play golf," she said. "I do have friends, but my friends are pretty understanding. When I get a chance to do something (else), it's an occasion.

"It's the price you pay if you want to be the best. You've got to work harder than everyone else."

Lexi said her long-range goal is to become a professional on the LPGA Tour.

She's also a 4.0 student who hasn't had a 'B' since junior high English.

Lexi said she likes the individual nature of golf.

"I like that everything that happens on the golf course is controlled by myself," she said. "I'm independent, and I like to control my own destiny."

She admitted she felt some uneasiness about the team aspect of high school golf.

"My team and my coaches have been more supportive than I expected," Lexi said. "My teammates are like family. It's been an easy transition, and it's made me enjoy the sport even more."

Stockdale coach Shannon Nieblas said Lexi's playing style reminds her of older players.

"She's just got an incredible work ethic," Nieblas said. "Usually when freshmen come in, it takes them a while to settle in.

"But she's done a great job. Off the course, she's like a 15-year-old. But when she steps on the course, she has an advantage because she plays like she's older, like a junior and senior. Her dad and her brother have taught her a lot about handling herself on the course."

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