When Kelly Whaley took up the phone, she was back home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, racing after two 9-month-old black Labs named Gracie and Lulu. She’ll be heading to Fort Myers, Florida, with her mother, Suzy, on May 4 for qualifying for the US Women’s Open at The Forest Country Club.
Suzy, the PGA of America’s first female President, qualified for her first U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 19 in 1986 and will caddie for her youngest daughter this year.
Kelly, now 24, is hoping to make her first USWO appearance this year at Pine Needles, where she won the US Kids Golf World Championship. She stated that it would be a dream come true.
“Whether in a pleasant or not-so-kind way,” Kelly remarked, “my mother is incredibly good at bringing me back to the present.” “She understands when to give you a kick in the buttocks and when to tell you everything is fine. That’s one of my favorite aspects of her caddying.”
Kelly has had a year of firsts, having competed in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International in March for the first time. She tied a Ladies European Tour record with eight consecutive birdies in a final-round, course-record-tying 63 at Royal Greens, putting her in the top 10 and securing a berth in the field in South Africa the following week.
“I didn’t anticipate to fly to South Africa soon after leaving Saudi Arabia,” Kelly remarked. That was a lot of fun.”
There are five more events on Golf Saudi’s Aramco Team Series program this year, and Kelly will compete in the next one on Sunday in Bangkok.
Competing in events sponsored by Golf Saudi Arabia is, of course, a contentious topic, especially in light of human rights concerns and the emergence of a rival league in the men’s game. Kelly explained that she saw the event as an opportunity and “wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on outside.”
She was also interested in checking out the Ladies European Tour, and what she discovered in Cape Town, South Africa, piqued her interest with new acquaintances, amazing ocean vistas, and lovely vineyards.
Kelly, whose sixth-place performance in the Joburg Ladies Open won her a berth in the Investec South African Women’s Open, where she tied for 26th, said, “I’m really pleased I did go because it’s opened many possibilities for me.”
Kelly, who, like her mother, played for North Carolina, has missed the cut in her past two Epson Tour events, but every time she tees it up, she tries to capture the sensation she felt in the final round in Saudi Arabia.
The birdie streak began on the fourth hole and ended on the eleventh, a stretch that featured two par fives. Her longest birdie putt came from 25 feet on No. 7, and her shortest came from 105 yards on the 10th, when she jammed a wedge.
“It’s almost as if you have this confidence that just overwhelms you,” she explained, “and you can’t fail.”
Linda Wessberg, Marine Monnet-Melocco, Nicole Garcia, Kristie Smith, and Stacy Lewis shared the LET record of seven consecutive birdies before to Kelly’s eight.
Kelly, who had her high school coach on the bag in Saudi Arabia, said, “That round has really kept me going this year.” She hopes to get more LET invites this season, but will primarily participate on the Epson Tour.
Kelly and her mother share a competitive nature. Kelly’s green-reading skills have improved since she started caddying at Seminole Golf Club over the offseason, and they plan in similar ways. Kelly, who is normally more shy, appreciates her mother’s passion.
“My mother is a dynamo,” Kelly added. “There is never any silence, which is just what I require.”
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