Campbell's Yost finds peace with impairment

Campbell coach John Crooks with 2014 Big South player of the year Kaylin Yost.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Kaylin Yost used to close her eyes, turn off her hearing aids and rub the cross she wore around her neck each time she hit a shot.

“I kind of like being quiet, having no distractions,” said Yost, a senior at Campbell.

She’s been wearing hearing aids since age 2, and turned them off growing up when mom started to yell. Actually, that tactic still applies with mom. Yost also goes into silent mode when she’s studying or on long van rides with the team.

“I honestly love being hearing impaired,” Yost said. “My kind of peace.”

Within the past year, however, Yost’s unique pre-shot routine has changed due to a new set of hearing aids that aren’t as easy to shut off. To help trigger the zone, Yost now rolls her shoulders back as if she’s stretching and takes a deep breath before putting a club behind the ball.

It’s startling at first, this unusual windup. Not as surprising though, as Yost's three-putt from 6 feet on the 18th hole May 9 that put her at 2 over for the day. Yost walked out of the scoring tent and took a few of those deep breaths before hugging mom.

Campbell, seeded 17th, got off to a fast start on Day 2 of the East Regional and spent most of the morning round under par. The Fighting Camels played the last three holes 6 over par, however, with Yost double-bogeying her last hole for the second consecutive day. Campbell was hovering around the eighth position as the afternoon session continued.

For John Crooks, in his 23rd season as head women’s coach at the Buies Creek, N.C., school, the main goal is to finish in the top 12 to ensure a tee time in Saturday’s morning wave. The 24-team field is split into two waves, and top teams go off first Saturday. The top 8 schools will advance to the NCAA Championship in Tulsa, Okla.

Campbell hasn’t been to an NCAA final since 1997.

“All you can hope to do is be there on the final day,” said Crooks, who earned his 75th women’s college golf title last month when Campbell won the Big South Conference Championship by 30 strokes.

Yost, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., chose Campbell mostly because of Crooks and his credentials. It helped that she wanted to get out of Florida and classes were small at the Christian school, which suited her disability.

As a freshman, Yost played in all 10 events and carried a 77.9 stroke average.

“When I came to Campbell, coach showed me a little tough love,” Yost said. “I was a crybaby my freshman year.”

Wedge work was especially needed, but Crooks said Yost’s game has improved across the board. As a senior, Yost led the Big South Conference with a 73.2 average. She has four career victories.

“She’s kind of the poster child for, If you work hard good things happen,” Crooks said.

A happy heart doesn’t hurt, either. Longtime boyfriend Lee Rouse proposed on Valentine’s Day. The couple plan to wed in two years, after Rouse finishes law school.

In the meantime, Yost plans to compete in the first stage of LPGA Q-School in August and turn professional.

It’s difficult to say how Crooks’ team will react to back-nine pressure in Saturday’s final round. Before this tournament, the Camels had faced top-25 teams only 10 times all season.

Crooks, who has 45 victories with the men’s team at Campbell, was a big proponent in the men's game of pushing through the so-called .500 rule that requires a winning record to qualify for the postseason. He’d like to see a similar standard for the women, too.

This year Campbell was invited to play in the Diane Thomason Invitational in Iowa, where the Camels saw several Big Ten schools. At the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate, hosted by Tennessee, Campbell competed against many SEC teams.

“For whatever reason, I haven’t broken into the ACC yet and they’re in our backyard,” Crooks said. “Those who host a tournament know who they want to invite, and without the .500 rule, that will never change.”

Perhaps a berth into this year’s NCAA Championship would help Campbell get more exposure.

Count Yost among the believers.

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