Salinas High’s Kalea Hall enjoys weekend in spotlight – Monterey Herald

SALINAS – Battling the flu last weekend served as a way to calm her stress and nerves, easing Kalea Hall’s mind in preparation to play golf on a national stage.

A gruff voice and some fatigue didn’t stop Hall from getting her hair done for arguably the biggest moment of her athletic life.

“Just a few points,” Hall said.

Over 1,000 First Tee teenagers across the country applied for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play alongside a PGA Tour Champions partner.

Just 75 have been selected to compete in this weekend’s Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach, with Salinas High seniors teeing off Friday.

“To be honest, I can’t compare it to anything,” said 17-year-old Hall. “It’s a whole new level. It is televised. I compete with and against the pros. It’s overwhelming.”

Hall will be paired with PGA Tour veteran Steve Flesch as the two play Pebble Beach Golf Links on Friday and Spyglass Hill Golf Course on Saturday, with hopes of reaching Sunday’s final round.

“I want to try to get a sense of who he is,” Hall said. “Is it a bit more on the social side? I’m going to pick his brain and learn as much as I can from him. But I don’t want to bother him.”

A native of Cincinnati, Flesch joined the PGA Tour in 1990 and has won 10 professional tournaments in his career, including a fifth-place finish at the Masters Tournament in 2008. He became a member of the PGA Tour Champions in 2017.

A Gabilan sectional golfer last fall as a junior as well as a member of the varsity swim team, Hall has been Salinas High’s No. 1 golfer the past two years.

“He took the leadership role,” Salinas High golf coach Alan Takemura said of Hall, who also was accepted to play in the inaugural Tiger Woods Tournament in October at The Hay Course in Pebble Beach. “He embraces it. She is a speaker.”

The focus now is on living up to her own expectations of representing the First Tee program, which she has been a part of since she was 6.

“The program has done so much for me, it’s crazy,” Hall said. “It has shaped me into the person I am. It has taught me so many lessons that I apply in life. It made me realize that I could be who I am today.”

The selection process for the event was grueling, with an application process that Hall said felt like applying to college or taking a long exam.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it was intense,” Hall said. “I had to answer a lot of questions in a short amount of time. There were essay questions. The interview was the most stressful part.”

Perhaps all her emotion and energy went into the application process. Because the selection was more of a huge relief than a celebration.

“It’s finally starting to hit home,” Hall said. “Maybe when I’m actually out there on the course – that it’s actually happening, it will sink in.”

That nervous tension Hall feels in her stomach usually doesn’t show up until she sets foot on the first hole. It won’t take long for him to figure out that this isn’t a high school golf game.

“She cares, that’s for sure,” Takemura said. “I know she’s nervous without telling me. She cares about doing well. It’s in her DNA. She expects a lot from herself.”

While neither Pebble Beach nor Spyglass Hill are strangers to Hall, what will test her mental makeup is the prospect of playing 54 holes over three days. Most practice matches are nine holes — 18 for a tournament.

“I have a little bit of an advantage because I know what’s coming to Spyglass,” Hall said. “When I played Pebble, it was more about the experience. I didn’t focus on the greens or the waters.”

Hall realizes the opportunities the event can offer. She is friends with last year’s Stevenson School graduate winner and current Bryant University golfer, Sydney Craven.

“I worked with Sydney over the summer,” Hall said. “He told me to make the most of it with your pro. You never know who he knows and what he might do for you in the future.”

There is also some pressure in the tournament because of what Craven did last fall when she teamed up with pro partner Tim Petrovic to capture the Pro-Junior Team title.

“I saw the interview Sydney did last year,” Hall said. “So I feel a little pressure. I’ve got to let it get away from me and do what I do, play to my potential and make the most of it.”

Hall, who has aspirations of playing golf or swimming in college, also approaches it as a mental test as she deals with the distractions of playing in front of crowds.

“It will be good to test how mentally strong I can be,” Hall said. “It’s more than the experience. It was always a dream to play in it. It’s going to be pretty surreal.”

Salinas High’s Kalea Hall will team with PGA Tour Champions pro Steve Flesch this weekend at Pebble Beach. (Courtesy of Kalea Hall)

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