SALINAS – Fighting the flu last weekend was a means of calming her anxiety and nerves, putting her mind at ease as Kalea Hall prepared to play golf on a national stage.
A hoarse voice and a bit of fatigue didn’t stop Hall from getting his hair done for arguably the biggest moment in his athletic career.
“Just some key points,” Hall said.
More than 1,000 young people enrolled in the nationwide First Tee program have applied once in their lives to play alongside a PGA Tour Champions partner.
Only 75 were selected to compete in this weekend’s Pure Insurance Championship in Pebble Beach, with Salinas High School seniors kicking off Friday.
“Honestly, I can’t compare that to anything,” said Hall, 17. “This is a whole new level. It was broadcast on television. I compete with and against professionals. This is overwhelming.”
Hall will be paired with PGA Tour veteran Steve Flesch as he will play Pebble Beach Golf Links on Friday and Spyglass Hill Golf Course on Saturday in hopes of reaching the final round on Sunday.
“I want to try to figure out who he is,” Hall said. “A little more on the social side? I will choose his brain and learn as much as I can from it. But I don’t want to piss him off.”
A Cincinnati native, Flesch joined the PGA Tour in 1990 and won 10 professional tournaments in his career and finished fifth in the 2008 Masters Tournament. He joined the PGA Tour Champions in 2017.
Hall, who was a member of the school’s swim team as well as an all-Gabilan Division golfer last fall, has been Salinas High’s #1 golfer for the past two years.
“He took on a leadership role,” said Salinas High golf coach Alan Takemura, speaking about Hall being accepted to compete at the opening of the Tiger Woods Tournament at The Hay course in Pebble Beach in October. “He’s hugging her. He’s a speaker.”
His focus now is meeting his expectations to represent the First Tee program he’s been a part of since he was 6 years old.
“The program has done so much for me, it’s insane,” Hall said. “He made me who I am. He taught me many lessons that I applied in life. It made me realize that I could be the person I am today.”
The process of being selected for the event was tedious, with an application process that Hall said felt like applying to a university or taking a big test.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it was very intense,” Hall said. “I had to answer multiple questions in a short amount of time. There were test questions. The interview was the most stressful part.”
Maybe all his emotions and energy went into the application process. Because being chosen felt more relief than a celebration.
“It finally started hitting the house,” Hall said. “Maybe when I’m really on the field – if this is really happening, it’s going to go down.”
The tense tension Hall feels in his stomach usually doesn’t settle until he sets foot in the first hole. It won’t take him long to realize this isn’t a high school golf game.
“He cares, that’s for sure,” Takemura said. “I know you’re nervous without telling me. She cares about being well. It’s in her DNA. She expects a lot of herself.”
No stranger to either Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill Hall, what will test his mentality is his potential to play 54 holes in three days. Most friendlies are nine holes – 18 for a tournament.
“I have a bit of an advantage because I know what’s going on in Spyglass,” Hall said. “When I played Pebble, it was more for experience. I didn’t focus on greenery or grass.”
Hall recognizes the opportunities the event could potentially provide. The Stevenson School graduate is friends with Sydney Craven, last year’s winner and current Bryant University golfer.
“I worked with Sydney over the summer,” Hall said. “He told me to make the most of your professional. You never know who you know and what they can do for you in the future.”
There is also pressure coming into the tournament as Craven teamed up with professional partner Tim Petrovic last fall to claim the Pro-Junior Team title.
“I saw the interview Sydney did last year,” Hall said. “So I feel a bit of pressure. I need to let that slip off me and do what I’m doing, use my skills and make the most of it.”
Hall, who wants to play golf or swim in college, also approaches it as a mental test as he deals with the distractions of playing in front of an audience.
“It will be good to test how strong I can be mentally,” Hall said. “This is more than experience. Playing in this was always a dream. It will be pretty surreal.”