The Grind, presented by Bank of Clarendon: East Clarendon sophomore Goff drives reigning boys state champs


East Clarendon's Cayleigh Goff is the lone girl on the Wolverines' golf team.

The sophomore has become one of the best golfers on the team and will be a vital part of the Wolverines' effort to repeat as 1A state champs.

Cayleigh has become somewhat of a natural at the game of golf, and a lot of that can be attributed to her beginnings in the sport at a young age.


Cayleigh's dad got her started with the game of golf. From a young age, Cayleigh was around the sport, even though her dad didn't play it competitively.

"My dad got me started when I was like seven or eight probably," Cayleigh said. "Since then, I've just been playing. He plays somewhat. He's not really big into it. But he played, and so we just started playing together. He got me into it, then I started taking lots of lessons. It just kind of clicked. I remember coming out here when I was little with my dad and just playing around.

"Learning the game was hard, the rules and everything. You have to really know where to hit the ball, how to read greens, stuff like that. I remember it being really hard when I first started, with me not really knowing anything. But I had so many lessons, and it kind of came natural; I just flow with it. It's not really hard anymore."

Cayleigh was playing competitively soon after she got the game down. She was not only entering a variety of competitions, but also won the majority of them. Cayleigh often found herself playing against an older crowd.

"I started playing in competitions at nine, and it was fun," Cayleigh said. "A lot of times, there was nobody in my age group, so I always had to play with older people. I guess that pushed me harder. I would have to try and catch up and keep up. The summer tournaments in Seabrook Island have a lot of competition, so those are probably the most exciting to win. So I played in those a lot, probably four years in a row.

"I got better and better. I started winning a lot, and it felt really good. I played in a lot more tournaments. My parents put me in them every weekend. In the summer, I played every day. In summer chapters, I played against girls. I didn't really start competing against boys until school golf."

Cayleigh's family has provided all the support needed for a young golfer. Cayleigh is appreciative of everything her family has done for her and credits them for her competitive spirit.

"They've supported me the whole time," Cayleigh said. "The money that goes into it is crazy, from golf clubs to tournaments every weekend to traveling to North Carolina, Seabrook or anywhere like that.

"When I have a bad round, I just keep going. I just want to figure out what I'm doing. I just can't end on a bad day. That comes from my parents.They pushed golf the most because they saw what I had," she continued. "My granddad built a hole behind my house, so I could go and practice. So any time I would play in a tournament and if I had a bad day, they would always say, 'You probably want to go fix it.' I'd always go out there and push myself to do better. So it was always kind of pushed, but I'm glad because now it's a lot better than it used to be."


Cayleigh has been a member of the boys team at East Clarendon since middle school. Cayleigh's progression has turned her into one of the team's most consistent golfers since she started high school. Last season, she earned All-State honors when she shot an 84 at the state meet, helping lead EC to a state title.

"I came out when I was in sixth [grade], but my score never counted, but I still played with them," Cayleigh said. "Playing on the boys team has been fun. I get along with everybody on the team, so that makes it a lot better. It's always good to play with girls, too, but boys are fine, I guess. At first it was (awkward) because I didn't really know anybody, and I just kind of showed up. It was really awkward. But after I got to know everybody and got good, it was a lot better. We all kind of separated at first. When I first started, I had my cousin on the team, so it was that that made things a lot better, and then I grew to know everybody."

Of course, other teams still throw the Wolverines some questioning looks from time to time.

"When we play in like tournaments, all the boys are always like, 'Is the girl good?' We're always like, 'Yeah, she's No. 1,'" Cayleigh said. "It's exciting for me. It does add some pressure. The bad days make you question yourself, but the good days make it a lot better."

Patrick Kelly has been coaching Cayleigh ever since her start back in the sixth grade. Kelly has enjoyed seeing her grow into the great golfer she is today.

"She's been around for a long time," Kelly said. "She's like the big sister and little sister on the team. The boys look after her if they have to. They love her being on the team. It's fun watching the other team's faces when she comes out. They see her, and then she starts hitting the golf ball, and their jaws drop because she hits it just as far or further than most high school boys.

"It's been fun seeing her grow. When you're always around somebody, you don't know how tall they've gotten because you see them every day. But you look back at pictures and stuff and look at how far she hits the golf ball compared to sixth and seventh grade, it's good. She believes in herself, but sometimes she struggles with not realizing how good she is. Sometimes that's a good thing for her, too, knowing that she can always get better and not get satisfied with shooting 38-39. It's always fun. You have people on your team that enjoy playing, and they're good at it. It just makes it enjoyable as a coach."


Cayleigh loves the variety provided by a sport like golf.

"The people," Cayleigh said of her favorite aspect of the sport. "Playing with different people, meeting new people. It's fun. I don't have a favorite place that I've played; I love playing everywhere. I've been to a lot of good courses. It's fun going new places and seeing different things and playing good at really hard courses. I played in some tournaments in North Carolina at Pinehurst. Those were really, really pretty and so much fun. Those were also the hardest courses I've played at, and it was super competitive."

Cayleigh also enjoys being a mentor to the younger Wolverines.

"It's exciting," Cayleigh said. "It feels good to know that you've got lessons you learned, and now you can teach other people and help them learn like you did. Helping them feels good because you can see their progress. I feel like people, they look up to me because they're still learning. We all kind of just learn from each other."


Cayleigh's talented enough to be able to play at the next level even though it's something she hasn't thought too much about yet. She's shown a dedication to the game despite also playing softball during the summers.

"I don't really know," Cayleigh said about playing golf in college. "I guess I still have time, since I have two more years in high school. I guess whatever comes, I'll just see then. I play travel (softball) in the summertime. I've thought about playing more softball, but golf is kind of hard to just give away. You've gotta keep playing; you can't just quit and then come back. You just have to keep going, so I've never really had softball as a serious option.

"One summer, I stopped playing (golf) for a while. But you don't want to lose what you have, so you just have to keep going. I just pushed myself to continue to play in the summers and during the school golf season."

Cayleigh's coach thinks she has what it takes to make the jump to college golf if that's the route she wants to take.

"The sky's the limit if she wants to reach the sky, if that makes any sense," Kelly said. "If she wants to be great, she could be great. If she wants to be good, she could be good."