A Journey in Golf Together
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Clare Yeazell is an accomplished junior golfer in the state of Ohio. She’s a member of the Lakota East High School Girls Golf Team in Liberty Township, Ohio, Class of 2024 and the daughter of PGA Member Melissa Yeazell. Melissa is the PGA Co-Owner of Tri County Golf Ranch, which is a very popular 9-hole, par-3 golf course and practice facility in Cincinnati.
Seemingly a normal golf-loving family, things shifted in 2016: at the age of 11, Clare began having seizures. After originally being diagnosed with epilepsy, the initial medication and course of treatment was not helping. It was later revealed that Clare had a brain tumor.
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On July 25, 2017, Clare underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor. Incredibly, just 19 days after that surgery, she went on to win her Drive, Chip & Putt Subregional Qualifier. Her success on & off the course has continued as she progresses her game. I was honored to chat with both Clare and Melissa to get a glimpse of the journey they have been on together through golf.
What are some of your earliest memories of this journey that you have been on together?
Melissa Yeazell, PGA: Playing golf with our oldest while Clare sat in her carseat in the golf car. Once Clare was born, she would sit in her stroller and go to the driving range with us until she was old enough to hit golf balls herself. That was followed by parent-child tournaments and Drive, Chip & Putt. Eventually, we had a fivesome!
When did you first pick up a club? What were the early days of your golf journey like?
Clare Yeazell: I started hitting golf balls when I was three. I was pretty much born into golf and it’s something that my whole family plays together. My earliest memories include Drive, Chip & Putt and participating in golf clinics at my mom's golf course.
What makes you most proud about the success your child has had with the game thus far?
Melissa: Clare is one of the most resilient people we know. Case in point, having multiple brain surgeries and then competing in a Drive, Chip and Putt Subregional Qualifier just a few weeks later. She is determined to be the best player she can be. Clare fights hard and seems to thrive on adversity which is not a quality that can be taught.
When did you start to feel like you had what it took to compete at a high level?
Clare: I was fortunate to compete in my first U.S. Women's Open Qualifier at The Ohio State University Golf Club last year. I was paired with a few college golfers, and it was one of the first times that I felt like I belonged. It motivated me to work harder on my game so that I can compete at the highest level.
What are some of the life lessons that have been learned through golf for all of you?
Melissa: We believe golf is a microcosm of life. Golf teaches perseverance, trust, respect, balance, belief in oneself, community, how to lose and how to win. Playing golf is just one aspect of the game. Owning a golf course, teaching the game and helping junior golfers grow continues to offer lessons on a daily basis. Golf is a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social journey.
What have been your most memorable moments so far?
Clare: This past summer, my mom and I traveled to Seattle to compete in the Northwest Women's Open. It was the second event that my mom and I competed against each other in, too. Despite not playing my best, I met a lot of great college and former tour players who were so supportive. One encouraged me to caddy in the U.S. Women's Senior Open at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my summer. At the Open, I was caddying alongside tour caddies and learned so much about the game and myself inside the ropes.
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What would you tell other golf parents that are just starting out on this journey?
Melissa: We have always let our kids lead their golf journey. All three are very good golfers, and they have participated in most of my junior programs, Drive, Chip & Putt, and local junior tournaments. Our oldest is very talented and had no desire to continue to compete after her high school career was finished. Clare desires to play professionally after college. Our son is in eighth grade and is a very good golfer but prefers track and basketball. Junior golfers succeed when they enjoy the process of learning the game. As a PGA Professional and coach, I see parents who, a lot of times, are overbearing and make too many choices for their junior golfers. This often leads to burnout and sometimes a dislike for the game. Clare is the driver in her junior golf experience, and we are just here to support her.
What have you learned from golf that has helped you off-course and what are your goals going forward?
Clare: Golf teaches me patience and perseverance. I complete school online and I have to be organized and committed on and off the course to get all of my work done. It also helps me relax and stay focused on what is important to me. As far as goals go, I will start competing again this spring and plan to visit colleges and talk to their golf team’s coaches. I would also like to compete in three to five AJGA events in 2023, as well as earn Player of the Year on the Golfweek Junior Tour. Oh, and my mom and dad would like me to get my driver’s license, so that, too.