Laura Jansone’s professional golf career seems to have taken a turn for the better, and it looks like a new partnership is a major reason.
After struggling as a pro for two years since graduating from East Tennessee State, Jansone teamed up with local golf teacher Jerrod Funk in an effort to help her game. The results so far have been quite impressive.
Jansone finished tied for seventh in the recent first stage of LPGA Tour qualifying tournament. The top 60 in the 240-player field advanced to the second stage. Jansone’s four-round total of seven under par, which included a third-round 67, qualified with ease.
“It was really good,” Jansone said. “That was an important tournament and to finish seventh out of 240 girls really was nice. I feel like all the hard work is paying off.”
Jansone and Funk began working together less than two months ago. The teacher saw a world of potential, especially when his new student had a putter in her hands. She needed to find some more distance off the tee.
“We trained for about a month with myself and my staff in the gym, on the course, on the range,” Funk said. “We made some subtle changes to her swing trying to get more speed and power.
“A girl like that, who has that talent, as long as they have the work ethic and dedication, they can do it. I didn’t think it would happen that fast, but I knew we were in a short time frame.”
Funk’s work with Jansone not only tweaked her swing, it focused on her mental approach, trying to convince her to trust her talent.
“The whole first round I kept asking her ‘Who’s number 1 in the world?’ And she kept saying her name. You have to have that mentality because if you want to play at that level, you have to believe it and work so hard.”
Jansone had been laboring on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit formerly known as the Futures Tour. She made three cuts in 14 events last year and three cuts in six events this year before her big breakthrough at the qualifying tournament.
“I haven’t won a tournament since my college years,” said Jansone, who won the Atlantic Sun Conference championship twice while at ETSU. “Jerrod convinced me that I can do it again. I can see for sure it is doable.”
Jansone, the first professional woman golfer from Latvia, will play in two more Symetra Tour events before the second stage of LPGA Tour qualifying is held Oct. 9-12 in Venice, Fla. The top 70 there will advance to the final stage.
Based on their short time together, Funk says he has no doubt that Jansone is willing to put in the work.
“She’s very talented and she comes from a country where they only had a nine-hole golf course when she was growing up,” he said. “She has that work ethic. If I tell her to do something, there’s no question in my mind that she’s gonna go do it. She pushes herself.”
Funk, a Bristol native who runs the Jerrod Funk Golf Academy in Kingsport, spent a few years in Florida working with the David Ledbetter Academy. He returned to the Tri-Cities seven years ago to open his own school.
In addition to Jansone, Funk is working with Hunter Green, a Memphis golfer about to compete in PGA Tour pre-qualifying, and Landon DeStafano, who has played on the Hooters Tour for several years.
Funk has a lot of local amateur students as well, teaching golfers of all levels. He does much of his outdoor work at Graysburg Hills Golf Course, saying the setting is perfect for learning the game.
“It’s a great place and they’re so friendly,” he said. “They really make the families feel welcome coming down there. It’s such a beautiful place, really a place where someone who really loves golf can spend a day and play 27 holes and practice and really get away.”
His studio, located next to Carl Cox’s Golf Unlimited store in Colonial Heights, has been up and running since November. After teaching at driving ranges and various courses, Funk decided he needed a place to call home.
Now, he can teach all year long, even in the winter.
“It’s actually the best time of the year to make changes to the golf swing,” he says. “You can make changes and get ready for the spring.”
The studio has a swing lab with lots of technology, including launch monitors and high speed cameras. He also has a putting lab.
“I’m trying to do something with the Tri-Cities to grow the game,” he said. “I want to provide the type of academy where most people think you have to go to Florida or Myrtle Beach.”
For more information on Funk’s academy and teaching programs, visit www.jerrodfunkgolfacademy.com.