FULL CIRCLE: Sierra Brooks' redemption tour hits Florida – The Independent Florida Alligator
A golf ball soared from the first tee and traveled into the center of the fairway.
Na-Yeon Choi stepped off the tee box and looked satisfied. Back in 2012, she won the US Women’s Open.
But this wasn’t 2012 anymore.
Kevin Smeltz — Choi’s coach at the time — swears he’ll never forget what he saw next.
He was coaching another player who was paired with Choi at the 2016 US Women’s Open — Sierra Brooks.
Choi was a seasoned veteran on the tour, while the relatively unknown Sierra turned 17 on the second day of the tournament.
Smeltz knew Sierra had potential but wanted to see her match up against elite international competition.
Sierra strided up to the first tee box, stalked the ball from behind and took a hack.
And the ball flew. And flew. And flew.
Scorching down the center of the fairway, the shot landed near Choi’s ball, but it didn’t stop. It hit the turf with a thud, rocketed back up into the air and dribbled down the course another few seconds before halting 30 yards past Choi’s ball.
Choi, the former No. 2 player in the world, gasped. “Coach, how far can that girl hit it?” she wondered.
Smeltz replied, “She can hit it pretty damn far.”
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Brooks, a sophomore transfer at Florida, is one of the best players in college golf this year, as evidenced by her being named to the ANNIKA Award Watch List, which honors the top college golfer in the country.
“Sierra stands out from any golfer I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached some great golfers,” said Cheryl Anderson, Sierra’s former high school coach.
Sierra grew up around golf. Her father and coach, Brent, played at North Florida and had one of the top-20 scoring averages