Kynadie Adams: Peaking at the Right Time

The junior golf swan song didn’t end the way she hoped, but her amateur career is destined for a crescendo

By Jordan Perez
August 8, 2022

An amateur — a junior, if you wanna get technical — contending at a professional mini-tour event isn’t typical. In fact, it wasn’t really in this teenager’s plans when she entered the East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour event in March. She’d been on a self-imposed break for five months and wanted to see where her game stood. 

But Kynadie Adams is built differently. Despite swing woes early last year, she is remarkably long off the tee (265 yards, to be exact). She’s found a lot of upside in her putting, which birthed her biggest highlights of 2022.

So on her 18th birthday, when she got into a playoff against a pro after carding a 5-under 67, she found all the validation she needed. She also knew the newly minted pro, Therese Warner, needed the money far more than she did. (Adams has a long-awaited college golf career ahead of her.) The choice was simple. The young gun classily conceded and walked away with second place.

“You can always learn a ton from it,” she said. “It was definitely a confidence booster for me because I know I can hang; I know I can win.”

Kynadie Adams

Months later, 4 over through six holes at a U.S. Girls’ Junior qualifier in Indiana, her confidence was shaken. The two doubles she made on the front nine especially stung. A bucket-list swan song at the Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky., meant everything was on the line.

A tough recruitment

The college recruitment of the born-and-raised Tennessean criss-crossed the South. She was always destined to play golf: Her dad, Adrian, played at Tennessee State with his roommate Sean Foley, who years later became Kynadie’s swing coach. By her tween years, her golf talent was outpacing the other sports she balanced, and she opted for online school to focus on golf.

The AJGA has been her stomping ground for a while, and she she has collected mostly top-five finishes in the past year. As she progressed through the ranks, her talent was noticed as much as her kind nature.

“Kynadie is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” says friend and future teammate Kaitlyn Schroeder. “I don’t think there is anyone as unselfish as her. She always tries to make everyone feel included.”

That’s exactly what she made headlines for in March. Her stellar play was secondary to her extraordinary character. It’s worth noting it was the second time she has finished runner-up in a pro event: She did the same two years ago at a state open.

So it’s no surprise that most of the SEC schools were hitting her up once she parted ways with Tennessee. (A coaching change was made, and her original scholarship was not honored). That’s a whole other story, but it was a temporary saving grace through a tumultuous recruitment. 

Alabama coach Mic Potter took keen notice of Adams as an up-and-coming talent, and made her an offer when she was in seventh grade. The Crimson Tide remained one of Adams’s favorites, but following that offer, her play suffered. By the time she entered high school, she was ready to commit — but Alabama got cold feet. Other early commitments didn’t pan out as the program had hoped.

“It gave me a chip on my shoulder, something to work for,” Adams says. Per NCAA rules, she’d have to wait until her junior year of high school to restart the search. Tennessee welcomed her with open arms; then the Vols didn’t. Adams was back at Square 1.

Then a familiar face showed up at the Polo Golf Junior Classic. There was Coach Potter, who was searching for a player to occupy a vacancy left by a transfer.

“Mic wants you on the team,” Adrian told his daughter after the round. Adams couldn’t believe it. Another school was also recruiting her, but she ultimately felt her heart was in Tuscaloosa. Still, the top 30-ranked junior has not forgotten what she went through.

“I hold on to that. I’ve got a little chip still,” Adams says. “I think I can be a really good player. I carry that adversity with me.”

Pulling it off

Having her back against the wall at a USGA Girls’ Junior qualifier probably gave Adams a flashback: Her 2021 bid went to a six-hole playoff. But she wasn’t going to miss Olde Stone for the world. Things got a little better on the back nine, but a bogey on 17 put her in a challenging position. This was it. If she birdied the 18th, she’d sneak into what seemed like an unlikely playoff.

Get to the green in two? Check. Knock in the eight-foot birdie putt for a ticket to the playoff party? Check. Sail through the first playoff hole with a seven-footer? Check. Time for an emotional celebration? Check. A tearful celebration ensued with Nick Dunlap, her boyfriend and the 2021 U.S. Junior Am champion.

Kynadie Adams

“He’s been really good,” Adams says of Dunlap’s caddying career. “He’s been a huge part of my golf game. He knows how to keep me mentally in it.”

She put up a commendable fight in the homecoming. Aside from record heat that struck the Southeast, the gritty Adams had to dig deep for rounds of 74 and 75 in Bowling Green, finishing two strokes above the cut line.

As with her recruitment, Adams has carried another monkey on her back: She had never had an individual match-play victory in a USGA championship, until this past U.S. Girls Junior. After an unsettling bogey, she went back and forth against Katie Cranston for eight holes.

Cranston regained the lead before Adams hit a tremendous approach on the 9th and made a five-footer for eagle to put her back in the match. She won the two holes that followed en route to a 3-and-2 victory. A home crowd filled with support gathered for her tee times, so it was extra special.

Steven Fox, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champ, subbed as Adams’s caddie on Thursday, after Dunlap left to defend his U.S. Junior Am title. The 36-hole day began with a quick round-of-32 in which Adams capitalized on the front nine par-4s. She won over Samantha Olson, 5 and 4.

Even with all the tools, Adams still competed like an underdog. But when the afternoon rolled around, her play completely reversed. Costly bogeys and a crafty Justice Bosio, the highest ranked of the remaining juniors, stunned Adams, 4 and 3.

“I just keep my past, honestly, as some motivation and inspiration when I need it,” Adams said back in March.

The elimination story is another tale of personal inspiration: The first swing of the rest of her amateur career begins this week at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay. 

As she begins to write the prologue to her post-junior golf career, her thematic grit will carry on. If there’s one thing this up-and-coming star can do, it’s clutch it out. The pressure just might be the necessary ingredient to her winning recipe.

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