NORMAL — Jaelyn Kelly's goal is to shoot two rounds in the 80s during the State Farm Youth Classic, which begins Tuesday at six Bloomington-Normal courses.

The 14-year-old resident of Hudson already achieved a lifetime dream of most golfers last week.

Kelly recorded a hole-in-one during the Pepsi Little People's Championship at Westview Golf Course in Quincy. She used an 8-iron on the 120-yard fourth hole during Wednesday's final round.

"Honestly, it didn't feel like it was happening," said Kelly after Monday's practice round at Ironwood Golf Course. "I bent down, picked my tee up and kind of walked off because I didn't realize what was going on."

Kelly was happy she switched clubs from the day before.

"Previously I had been hitting a 9-iron and it was short of the hole, so I changed it up a bit this time," she said. "It was over water and it was really green and nasty."

Thoughts of an ace weren't on her mind. In her three years as a golfer, Kelly said she had never come close to a hole-in-one.

"When I hit the ball I thought I hit it pretty thin," she said. "Honestly, it bounced about 5-10 feet in front of the hole, bounced a couple times and went in. I heard it hit the flagpole and didn't see it again."

Kelly's parents, Ryan and Shawna, were back near the tee. They were thinking she hit it close for a possible birdie before another parent near the green began celebrating.

A tourney official heard the applause and came over to see what happened. He took down the information, and by the time Kelly finished her round an engraved trophy was already waiting for her.

"She got more aplause than anyone" at the awards presentation, said Shawna Kelly.

Jaelyn Kelly, who will be a freshman at Normal West High School, has devoted most of her summer to golf. She takes lessons from Weibring Golf Club assistant professional Stacey Miller. She competes on the Prep Tour and was in the Pepsi Little People's Championship for the first time.

This will be Kelly's second appearance in the State Farm Youth Classic and she'll be in the girls 14-15 division at Ironwood.

Her practice round Monday was with friends Madison Bley of Bloomington and Lauren Cervantes of Normal and felt like a Wednesday afternoon at Weibring Golf Club when the trio always plays together.

Kelly broke 90 for the first time, shooting 89, in a Prep Tour event this summer at Weibring. She came back the next day with Bley and Cervantes and fired a career-best 87.

To say Kelly has come a long way in the last three years would be an understatement.

"At first I was iffy about the sport because I wasn't really good and everyone I played with had been playing since they 5, 6 or 7, really young," she said. "My dad he's never been into golf. My grandpa (Tom Stash of Gridley) has, but I was never pushed into it."

Kelly hopes her summer preparation will pay off when she competes for Normal West this fall.

"I'm looking forward to it a lot because I haven't had a solid team to compete with," she said. "This will be fun."

China golfers in field: Four golfers from China will be participating in the State Farm Youth Classic. It will be the first time since 2009 there has been a golfer from China in the field.

Lie Zongru of Beijing will compete in the boys 14-15 division at Prairie Vista Golf Course, while Zichenge Ye of Shanghai plays in the boys 16-17 division at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course.

Amy Gao of Shanghai and Mary Li of Beijing are in the girls 16-17 division at Prairie Vista.

This year's field of 364 golfers is 20 more than last year. There are golfers from 11 states and three countries (U.S., South Africa and China) represented.

Parent-Child winners: Colton Carpenter and his father, Jordan, won the 8-under Parent-Child portion of the State Farm Youth Classic on Sunday for the third straight year.

The Bloomington residents shot 32 at The Links at Ireland Grove in the alternate-shot format. Atty and Chad Wilson were second with 40.

Tate and Robert Duckels of Carlinville captured the 9-11 division by shooting 34. Tyler and Jake Rosendale fired 39 to take second. 

Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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