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"Notah Begay III (NB3) National Championship: Celebrating Champions!"

Kelly M. Zhang with Notah Begay III

Introducing Kelly M. Zhang, the Notah Begay III (NB3) Girls 10-11-Year-Old National Champion! (Part 5 of an 8-part series highlighting all age division winners).

Girls and Boys ages 10-18 yrs old - 2023 NB3 National Champions!KekllKk

TJG: Congratulations, Kelly, on your national championship win a few months ago at the NB3 National Championship in Louisiana at Coushatta Resort and Casino. Can you talk about the highlights and your overall experience of not only playing in but winning the NB3 National Championship? What part of your game was on fire for the week? Any strategies or daily goals that you’d like to share?

Kelly: One of the most remarkable and memorable highlights from the week at NB3 was seeing all of the holes that I’d previously watched on television. Since participating in the Notah Begay III tournament was one of my dreams, it was so fun to be there and stand on land I’d seen on TV, not just as a destination but in real time. I think one of the strongest parts of my game that week was my mindset. I really felt like if anything unexpected happened, I could keep a straight face and just go with the flow. One thing I'd like to share about my routine is that every time we drove to the golf course, we would listen to a song called "WoHuiDeng," which translates to “I’ll wait.” During the round, when I felt jittery, I just hummed that song and reminded myself that golf is just a game; it doesn’t change who I am. It’s just a part of me.

TJG: What were your expectations going into the National Championship?

Kelly: As I mentioned before, just participating in the tournament was already a dream come true. My family loves to have competitions, and they bet that if I could beat just one person, they would be as proud of me as if I had won first place. So, going into the three rounds, I knew that whatever happened on the golf course wouldn’t change what we did after the game. We’d still go eat noodles, play games, and not let the result bother us. By "we," I mean my family.

Kelly with her mother (and caddy)

TJG: Talk about how well this tournament is run overall.

Kelly: This tournament was really fun, and I really appreciate the effort and time spent putting it together. I want to thank the organizers and sponsors who helped make this happen, and I especially want to thank the volunteers who gave their energy to help. Without them, this wouldn’t be as amazing.

TJG: How well do you like Koasati Golf Course?

Kelly: When I play golf, I like to play a game about how twisty the golf course is. I really liked the layout of the course, and while some holes had water, it was nice to play a course with water after playing too many courses without it, like the Cliffs course and Crystal Springs Golf Course. Overall, I think the course was really fun. The little mosquitos added some flavor too, although I can still see the bite marks on my hand while I write this. It was amazingly fun.

TJG: Rank this tournament win in your junior career.

Kelly: Even though this tournament was very important to me, I know I should give some credit to luck. If the weather had been a little hotter, I might have evaporated! Just because you don’t play great in one round doesn’t define who you are. It’s just a bad day.

TJG: Are you excited to go back to Coushatta to defend your title next year?

Kelly: YES! I am so hyped to go to Coushatta again in 2024. I’m not sure about defending my title since I’ve moved up a year and am now 12, but I’m definitely excited to see old friends and make new ones. It’s a good experience to play with older girls and very fun to talk about 7th and 8th grade.

TJG: What’s in your bag?

Kelly: I have a full set of PING clubs fitted by Will Yanigasawa at PING Headquarters in Phoenix. I have a tiny little rangefinder smaller than my hand, which I got four years ago in my second-ever tournament. I also have an AirTag that I use to track my clubs while traveling because I’m so afraid of losing them at the airport. My driver is named Sebastian II because Sebastian I got snapped in half by my dad. Although I’m still getting to know Seb II’s personality, I think we will be good friends.

Rapid Fire Q’s:
Best part of your golf game:

NB3 is a really prestigious tournament that only happens once a year, so I think everyone who attends is already a champion. For this tournament, none of my skills could be missing, but I really got lucky with the right timing and perfect weather (misty, rainy, foggy, just like home).

Biggest goal in golf:
I started playing golf in the fall of 2019. That summer, my family and I were walking on a bridge when I saw a boy (around 10 years old) pushing a blue Clicgear golf cart. Immediately, I wanted more than anything to try this fascinating game that toys with luck, practice, and emotion. That winter, I began my journey. I wouldn’t say I have any specific future golf goals, but I think golf can really help me become a better person who can control their emotions and knows that success is made up of determination and focus.

Favorite golfers:
Besides myself, I would say probably Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda, and my golf friends who make me want to keep getting better. They help me stay determined and focused, which helps all of us become better golfers together.

Favorite class in school:
My favorite class in school is English because of the book we’re reading, "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," which tells the tale of a brave young girl who stands up to the biased opinions of higher-class people. I have a lot in common with her, and I feel like we would make really good friends. For example, our dads both love motorcycles, we love reading, and our stomachs hurt if we walk barefoot in the morning. So I learned to wear socks when I go to bed before a game.

One interesting thing about you:
I used to race in skiing! I started when I was 3, before any of the golf biz, and I think that has given me a strong core that helps my golf swing. Today was Jersey Day at my school. I wore one of my old racing jerseys and even won a ticket to put in the box for a chance to win a prize.

Did we miss anything you’d like to say?
I appreciate Today's Junior Golfer featuring me and for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share my experience and really dive deep into who I am. Thank you for giving me this chance. I can tell you for a fact I had fun writing this.

Where can we find you on social media?
Instagram: @kelly_zhang_golf