14-year-old Chloe Kovelesky qualified for the U.S. Women's Open
(Kovelesky family photo)
By now, you’ve likely seen 14-year-old Chloe Kovelesky - aka, the youngest qualifier in the 2021 U.S Women’s Open - across multiple headlines. Kovolesky’s remarkable 70-70 performance at the U.S. Women’s Open qualifier at Banyan Cay Resort & Golf in West Palm Beach, FL captivated an audience worldwide. But there’s plenty more than meets the eye than just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a major’s youngest competitor.
Kovelesky’s performance featured caddie Barry “Rock” Cesarz (who’s typically on the bag for LPGA star Morgan Pressel) via a relationship that’s spanned years. Pressel and Kovolesky were introduced at the St. Andrews Country Club, when the latter was a 7-year-old junior golfer at Pressel’s Morgan & Friends charity tournament, and have shared a close bond since.
A treasured mentor, Pressel once held the record for the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open at 12 years old in 2001 (that record was broken by 11-year-old Lucy Li in 2014), so she’s quite schooled in Kovelesky’s situation. Now, Rock will accompany Kovolesky in her cross-country trek to Olympic Club while Pressel will watch her mentee from the booth as a commentator for the event.
Get to know more about this incredible talent, in our edited transcript of a recent Zoom call. (You can watch the call by clicking on the YouTube video above.)
We’re a little under two weeks before the US Women’s Open tees off at the Olympic Club - now that you’re a little outside of your qualifier, what’s been your overall reaction to all of this?
Chloe: I’m just trying to stay humble and try to keep working on my game the way I have been. I’m excited.
What have you been doing within the two weeks outside of the Open to prepare?
Chloe: I’m still working on my game the way I was before the qualifier. I have seen improvement, so I keep doing the same thing; if you’re seeing improvement with that, might as well keep going with it.
I heard you can hit it about 280-290 yards of the tee, which is so incredible - what kind of mechanics have you been focused on in getting there?
Chloe: Honestly, I’ve had it since I was really young. I’ve just kind of fired at the ball. I found consistency with it, so it’s kind of come with time and strength.
Can you walk me through an average day in the life of Chloe Kovelesky?
Chloe: Usually I try to get out by around 7:15 a.m., and then I go practice. I come in around 12-12:30 and do some schoolwork. Also if it’s gonna rain during the day, then I have to rearrange my schedule to when it’s going to rain, stuff like that. Then I have to go back out, and I just go for a couple of hours, then I go back out and practice. Then I come back in, try and do a little more school at night. Of course, I eat and spend time with my parents and then go to bed.
You’re based out of Boca Raton, what’s your home course?
Chloe: Boca Woods Country Club and Quail Ridge Country Club.
You’ve played against some pretty tough fields and been a consistent top performer in tournaments like The Sally, the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational - and obviously, your U.S. Women’s Open qualifier! What’s the key to your consistency?
Chloe: Confidence is a big thing - having confidence and knowing you’re gonna play well. Even if the course doesn’t fit your game, you still have to think you’re gonna play well on it. You have to set up for it.
Being so young, what kind of things did you do to build your confidence?
Chloe: I’m not really sure - I just kind of always went with it and kind of go with the flow.
Tell me about Banyan - had you played there before, how did it suit your game?
Chloe: I played it a couple years ago, but I didn’t remember it, it was a really long time ago. But I like the course, I was kind of able to shape my shots the way I wanted to with it, and I could hit a lot of drivers. I like being able to hit my driver off the tee, which some courses don’t allow me to. I really liked it, it set up well the way I liked it for my game.
You played 36 holes of golf - that can be pretty intense. How do you keep yourself engaged to make the shots that you need to?
Chloe: I just tried to stay focused - a bad shot’s gonna come here and there, a bad couple of holes are gonna come here and there. I was trying not to double any mistakes or anything.
That qualifier had such a range of different ages and experience levels. You obviously made it among the top to qualify, and now at the Open that range is going to be even more expansive. What’s something you as a younger person feel like you can teach the world of golf?
Chloe: I honestly just really wanna grow the game. I wanna be a mentor for kids and hopefully grow the game as much as I can.
Do you feel like you can have that impact at 14?
Chloe: I think I can. I just want younger kids to be able to look up to me and be able to say ‘that’s who I wanna be like, I wanna be a nice person,’ I wanna be able to accomplish what I can accomplish but also be a great person at that.
You’ve got a pretty big Instagram presence. What’s the feedback been like since your qualifier?
Chloe: I’ve gotten so many notifications - not just Instagram, but any social media platform. It’s kind of gotten a little crazy lately, more than usual. It’s nice because everyone’s reaching out - “I’m so proud of you, you’ve worked really hard for this” - so it’s really nice from everyone, to know that they’re watching and supporting me.
Is there anyone, in particular, you look up to in women’s golf?
Chloe: Morgan Pressel has always been a huge mentor for me. She’s always really helped me. She’s always been a big mentor and always was supportive of me. She would always reach out and Rock actually caddied for me (for the US Women’s Open qualifier). I’ve played with her a couple of times when I was really young and always kept in touch with her.
I heard you got a golf cart and I know you’re pretty big on driving without the AirPods in - but when they are in, what are you listening to?
Chloe: Honestly, I don’t have a playlist so it’s kind of just whatever I’m in the mood for, I’ll find something. But I do like listening to OneRepublic a lot. I also like Taylor Swift.
Do you prefer TV shows or movies? What’s a recent favorite?
Chloe: I’ve always been a big Harry Potter fan. I like the two National Treasure movies.
What’s your favorite Harry Potter movie?
Chloe: Sorcerer’s Stone.
What’s your favorite subject in school?
Chloe: Math or science.
If you had a dream day of meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - what would that look like?
Chloe: I don’t usually eat breakfast. Maybe three times a month I’ll decide to eat breakfast, and I’ll make like an egg or something. Probably drink a smoothie or something for breakfast. I had a smoothie this morning and I really liked it, so I’m gonna start drinking those. For lunch, I’d probably want - I feel like I could just say sushi for everything, cause I like sushi a lot. Then for dinner...I don’t know, that’s a hard question. I like a lot of food. It kind of depends on the mood.
When you’re out on the course, what do you like to snack on?
Chloe: Some people think I’m crazy because I will eat a full meal on the golf course. Rock thinks I’m crazy because I pulled out chicken on the golf course. My coach actually has a video of me eating spaghetti and meatballs on the golf course. Seriously, it’s kind of whatever I feel like that day. For a while, I was eating ravioli. I like eating these chicken things my mom makes - they’re really good. That, spaghetti, ravioli...and yes, it does get all over my shirt.
What’s your favorite sport that’s not golf?
Chloe: I am a big hockey fan. Now, trying to get me to play that - that wouldn’t happen. But I like watching it.
Off the course, what do you and your friends like to do for fun?
Chloe: Probably swim. Me and my friends swim when we try to.