SAN FRANCISCO – She rocks the best pink camouflage pants since John Daly and rips her drives over 290. Oh, and she’s only 14 years old.
Chloe Kovelesky became the youngest competitor to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open since Lucy Li in 2014. The young star qualified in her home state in Florida, shooting rounds of 70-70 (-4) to earn her spot this past week at The Olympic Club.
“It was really cool to experience everything inside the ropes and play on the same course as best players in world,” Kovelesky said on Saturday by phone, after her week ended a little earlier than she hoped.
After Kovelesky’s second consecutive 81, she got a call from LPGA veteran and Golf Channel analyst Morgan Pressel – her biggest idol.
“We talked for a while. She told me to take something positive out of it even though it wasn’t what I wanted,” said the teen.
Kovelesky met Pressel seven years ago at the annual Morgan & Friends charity event in St Andrews in Boca Raton, Florida – not the one in Scotland.
“A couple weeks later I got to play with her. We’ve kept in touch ever since,” Kovelesky said.
The charity event benefits The Morgan Pressel Foundation, which helps raise money in the fight against cancer – specifically breast cancer. Pressel wanted to honor the memory of her mother, Kathryn Krickstein Pressel, who passed away from breast cancer at 43 in 2003. Over the last 11 years, the annual golf event Morgan & Friends has raised over $9.5 million dollars to find a cure for cancer. In 2019 alone, the event raised over $1 million.
During Kovelesky ’s round, Pressel posted numerous videos on her Instagram story, cheering the young teen along in her round.
“She does so much for the women’s game and is a great inspiration,” Kovelesky said.
In additional to their personal relationship, Pressel and Kovelesky have a lot in common as players. In 2001, Pressel became the youngest to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open at 12-years-old, a record that has since been broken by Lucy Li at 11-years-old. Pressel is known to encourage young girls to achieve their dream and this week was no different. In preparation for Choe’s first U.S. Open, Pressel walked the course with her on Tuesday and Pressel’s caddie, Barry Cesarz, who also caddied for Chloe in her qualifier, was on the bag this week.
“We talked about everything. He asked me on the first tee if I got my eggrolls [on Friday], because my mom was going to make them,” said Kovelesky.
But before Pressel, it was Kovelesky ’s dog, Charlie, who was one of her main influences when starting her golf journey. Sadly, Charlie passed away in April because of old age, but still remains very close to Chloe’s heart.
“He was a natural at retrieving the golf ball and always wanted to fetch. He even was shown on Golf Channel a few times when I qualified for the Drive Chip and Putt in 2016-2017,” said Kovelesky, who posted a video of her and Charlie in Instagram when they were small.
Kovelesky had quite a gallery on the first tee in Northern California despite being a cross-country trip from her South Florida home. Amongst her gallery was her parents Tina and Rich, her aunt Rose along with her uncle Clark March. Also, Jeremy Moe the director of golf and assistant director Duke Trombetti from her home course Boca Woods Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, with her coach Cori McAuliffe among other friends and fans.
“It was one of the proudest moments as a mother to watch,” said Chloe’s mother. I can’t wait to see what her next achievement is and know that I will be right there by her side.”
She also had a crowd of folks who wanted to see if the rumor was true. Can she really drive it 290 yards?
“It felt pretty cool (to hit it passed the pros),” Kovelesky said. “I’ve always had distance and that will be an advantage at some point. I just need to tighten up my short game and dial in wedges and putting, which is exactly what I’ve been working on.”
Her work has paid off the past year with six top five finishes and one victory out of her 11 starts on the Florida mini-tour circuit. The Olympic Club however, was a new beast for the 14-year-old.
“It’s very different from the courses I play in Florida. The grass, the rough and the hills. There are no hazards on this golf course, so you think it will be easy and get out there and it’s not. I actually hit a lot of good shots but got some bad breaks,” Kovelesky said.
Bad breaks included some 360-degree lip-outs and a lost ball on No. 5, in Kovelesky’s first round. “I didn’t even hit it that far off my line, but the rules official said it nicked a tree and we couldn’t find it, so I had to re-tee,” she said.
Kovelesky’s disappointed, yes, but she learned what it takes to compete with the pros, and it made her hungry for more. “I’m definitely going to work even harder and try to qualify again next year,” she said. “I’ve put in a lot of work time mentally and physically and I’m just going to keep improving.”
Her main goal was to have fun this week and that was certainly accomplished.
“Whatever happens, happens. I can’t treat this like something different. Bad rounds happen and you just have to keep learning,” she said.
Wise words from the young star.
The biggest lesson Kovelesky learned watching the pros was to stay within herself. “You’ve got to stay patient,” she said. “Especially watching the best players in world, they are going to have bad shots, but I need to make it where the good shots right now are my bad shots.”
So, what’s next for the 14-year-old? When is she turning pro? Is she going to college?
“I’m not really sure yet,” she said. “I’m not going to get too ahead of myself. Wherever life takes me.”
Kovelesky’s appearance at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open means a lot more people will be following this impressive young woman in whatever she does.