Inside Look: 69th U.S. Women’s Open with Kevin Smeltz

I will begin by admitting that I am not a golfer. I’ve played a total of 18 holes in my life, most of which were not pretty. That being said, I normally avoid teeing it up and stick to admiring great golfers from “outside the ropes”.

It is from behind the lens of my camera that I have gained my deep appreciation for the skill and focus that golf requires. Through the countless photos I have taken of IJGA juniors practicing and competing, I have come to realize (and appreciate) just how hard golf really is.

As if the talent bursting from IJGA is not enough to leave me impressed, I had the opportunity to travel alongside Director of Instruction, Kevin Smeltz, to Pinehurst in North Carolina. We parked at the prestigious Carolina Hotel and as we got out of the car, a black Lexus courtesy car pulls up. Inside was none other than the 2012 U.S. Open Champion, Na Yeon Choi. She tells us to jump in, that she would give us a ride (cue feelings of being starstruck).

There I was in “The Cradle of American Golf“, accompanying one of the nation’s finest coaches and walking into the club alongside the world’s best professional female golfers. Once I managed to pull myself together, I pulled out my camera to begin capturing what I was able to witness.

Na Yeon Choi, Jennifer Song and Yani Tseng are three of Kevin’s professional students and the purpose of his trip was to provide coaching to each of the girls during their round as they had requested. There I was, impressed yet again, at the fact that even these professional athletes still understood the importance of receiving lessons and made it a priority to have their coach present for the practice rounds of one of the most monumental tournaments in women’s golf.

Prior to the round, Kevin and his students arrived to the practice facilities hours in advance to work one-on-one. I snapped away as he used training tools and a camera to work out the kinks with each of the girls. Much of the same coaching I had seen Kevin provide his IJGA students was the same training he used with his professional students.

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Smeltz aids Jennifer Song by reviewing swing photos on the range – Photo by IJGA (Rachel Pincus)

 

During the round, as the girls played, Kevin remained inside the ropes through every hole. I watched alongside hundreds of admiring fans as Kevin provided feedback and advice. I was amazed by how many people approached me to tell me how impressed they were with the fact that not only was Kevin the coach for multiple very impressive LPGA players but also how impressed they were that this was the caliber of coaching the IJGA students were receiving.

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Kevin & Yani Tseng discuss her upcoming putt Photo by IJGA (Rachel Pincus)

 

As Jennifer, Yani and Na Yeon finished their rounds, they immediately made their way to the practice green to focus on a few final things with Kevin before the tournament rounds would begin. An eager group of adoring fans waited and watched as the already accomplished golfers soaked up their time with Kevin.

Na Yeon Choi gets in last-minute putting instruction from Kevin after her practice round Photo by IJGA (Rachel Pincus)

Na Yeon Choi gets in last-minute putting instruction from Kevin after her practice round Photo by IJGA (Rachel Pincus)

Even though I left to return to IJGA later that evening, I found myself glued to the internet and my television, eager to watch the tournament unfold. Now, a new, self-proclaimed golf fan, I was excited to check in on Kevin’s players and monitor how they were doing in each tournament round. As I looked at the standings on Friday and saw that all six of Kevin’s students had made the cut, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for the girls as well as Kevin.

Aside from being utterly impressed by the venue, the experience and the event, I learned that no matter how great one may become at golf, even the best continue to take lessons in order to grow with each and every day.

To see more photos from my time at Pinehurst with Kevin and his professional students, click here.

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