Kaylin Yost didn’t play her best golf Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
She shot a 3-over 75 on a Wildfire Golf Club course that has been easy pickings for LPGA pros, and in Sunday’s final round, she’ll have an early morning tee time, far away from the cameras and the leaderboard.
But when Yost stepped off the 18th green, you would have thought by her smile and attitude that she had shot a 65. And why not? She had to qualify on Monday just to play in her first LPGA event and then shot a 67 on Thursday to pop up on the leaderboard.
Saturday, after making her first cut, she was paired with LPGA legend Juli Inkster. As her boyfriend and caddie, Brandon Bradford, said, everything now is “just gravy.”
“I’m blown away by how well she’s handled the hoopla out here,” Bradford said. “It’s incredible. She’s exceeded all expectations.”
Yost, 25, has been doing that since she came out of her mother’s womb. She was born with two dislocated hips and doctors initially told her parents she wouldn’t be able to walk. She had two major surgeries and spent her first 16 months in a full-body cast.
RELATED: Nordqvist takes Founders Cup lead
Then, when she was 2 years old, her parents discovered she suffered from 90 percent hearing loss. Yet she took up golf at the age of nine – her grandfather played – earned a scholarship to Campbell University in North Carolina and after quitting the Symetra Tour in 2015 because she was playing so poorly, she is back at it, trying to make a life and a living on the LPGA Tour.
“She’s a fighter,” Inkster said. “You put a lot of people in her position and they crumble. That’s what you have to admire about her.”
Yost’s hearing loss never has been a detriment. In fact, she said, she used it to her advantage when she had her old hearing aids, turning them off before every shot so she wouldn’t be bothered by any noise on the course. Laughing, she calls it “playing her deaf card.”
What wasn’t so funny: Ending the ’15 season on the Symetra Tour 154th on the money list, earning just $1,551. Frustrated and angry, she took a job running shuttles for JetSmarter, a private charter jet company.
“It was cool,” Yost said. “I got to fly a private jet once. I enjoyed it … It’s Uber for jets. A lot of celebrities and stuff.”
But it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life, and when she saw players on the Symetra and LPGA Tours posting pictures on social media, she turned to Bradford and said, “OK, I’m going to start playing again.”
“Since then, she’s worked her rear end off every single day,” Bradford said. “I’m so proud of her for it.”
There’s no security in Yost’s decision – she doesn’t have exempt status, and at the age of 25, she’s already miles behind so many of the Tour’s younger talents. But even on days her golf swing betrays her, there is perspective.
“There’s been a couple of times when I’m having rough days on the golf course and my coach would lean over and say, ‘You could be making jet reservations,’ ” Yost said. “Something as simple as that makes me realize I need to be grateful I’m back out here again.”
This summer, Yost will represent the United States in the Deaf Olympics in Turkey. She can’t wait and, as usual, uses the opportunity to make fun of her hearing loss.
“Everyone is saying, ‘I’m getting ready for the Solheim Cup,’ ” Yost said. “I’m getting ready for the Deaf Olympics.”
Still, it’s better than driving a shuttle and wishing you hadn’t given up on your dream.
“I try to make the best of everything,” Yost said.
Really, hasn’t she already?