Talented? Without a doubt.
Clare Yeazell, 12, is all of those things, and much more. She proved it by winning her subregional qualifier in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship just 19 days after undergoing brain surgery in July.
Clare advanced to the regional qualifier in September at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn. – the final step before the National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club on April 1.
Twelve months ago, Clare started having seizures. When her family first sought medical guidance, she was initially diagnosed with epilepsy.
“She was placed on meds but nothing really helped,” said her mother, Melissa.
In May, Clare underwent further testing and magnetic resonance imaging, which revealed a brain tumor. She entered Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on July 18, and for the next week, every time Clare had a seizure it was monitored by doctors. On July 25, she underwent surgery to remove the tumor.
“She’s been really strong through the whole process,” Melissa said.
Even after undergoing such a procedure, Clare showed no intention of slowing down her work towards her goal. Upon her return home, she was ready to resume her preparations for her Drive, Chip and Putt subregional qualifier.
Not yet, her mother said.
“She wanted to hit balls as soon as she could but I wouldn’t let her,” said Melissa, who lifted the embargo only five days before the August 13 competition at Persimmon Ridge Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
And just that quickly, Clare was ready to go. Competing in the Girls 12-13 division, she won the putting competition (55 points), was third in chipping (35 points) and added 19 more points in driving. Her total of 109 points put her atop the standings. Isabell Seeley of Williamsport, Ohio, earned the second qualifying spot at the subregional with 96 points.
“Last year, I didn’t make it through to the second round, and I wanted to try it again,” Clare said. “I was pretty worried (that she wouldn’t be able to compete).”
The Yeazells live in West Chester, Ohio, about 20 miles north of downtown Cincinnati. Clare’s affection – and ability – for golf is a birthright.
Melissa has been a PGA Professional since 2004. She operates Tri County Golf Club, a nine-hole par 3 golf course with a driving range and putting green. It’s a family-friendly facility with an environment that allows golfers of all levels to work on their game. Individual instruction is available, along with golf leagues, junior camps and clinics, and open play. The range’s 20 heated stations are open year-around.
Melissa, a certified teaching professional, has Symetra Tour status, but with her daughter in and out of the hospital, her focus has been on Clare.
Clare’s father, Dave, is a former PGA Professional who has been reinstated as an amateur and now is employed as a financial advisor.
It’s no surprise then that Clare has been hitting golf balls ever since she could, according to her mother.
“I think a lot of it is she wants to spend time with me, too,” Melissa said. “She’s very competitive, and she latched on to the game.”
The regional at The Honors Course in Chattanooga on September 24 is a straight shot down Interstate 75 from Cincinnati. That could be an omen for a straight-shooter like Clare.
Clare has never been to the Masters but knows Augusta National “is kind of a special place.”
Until the sixth-grader returned to school a few days ago, reducing her practice time, Clare said she was working on her game “every day I could get to the range.”
The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a joint effort of the USGA, Masters Tournament and the PGA of America. Since its inception in 2013, it has soared in the consciousness of golfers and golf facilities throughout the country. Through a series of local, subregional and regional qualifiers, a final group of 80 competitors in four age groups – 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 – are invited to the National Finals at Augusta National.
In addition to experiencing first-hand the famous golf course, Clare said that should she reach National Finals on the eve of the 2018 Masters Tournament it would serve “to see how far” her game has progressed.
And there’s one more thing. Clare won’t be competing to finish second.
“I like to win,” she said.
She’s good at it, too.