Hall 'ready to go' in first TOUR start in 11 years
Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption recipient continues to shatter stereotypes as a deaf golfer
February 15, 2017
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- February 15, 2017
Kevin Hall chases his dreamDespite losing his hearing before age 3, Kevin Hall went on to captain the Ohio State University Golf Team his junior and senior seasons, capturing the conference's individual championship in 2004. He told his story to the PGA TOUR Sunday team in 2005.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – The last time Kevin Hall teed off in a PGA TOUR event was 11 years ago. So you can imagine his reaction when he received an email from the Tiger Woods Foundation notifying him of a spot in this week’s Genesis Open.
“I almost choked up,” Hall said Wednesday through his sign interpreter. “I needed to drink some water. I was so surprised but I was really shocked, you know? … It’s really an honor to have this great experience. It’s been a humbling experience and I’m ready to go.”
Hall was awarded the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption earlier this month and will be among the field of 144 players in Thursday’s first round at Riviera. He tees off Thursday at 8:35 a.m. PT off the first tee with playing partners J.T. Poston and Kevin Dougherty.
The 34-year-old Hall has been shattering stereotypes his entire life. Before his third birthday, Hall lost his hearing due to H-Flu Meningitis. While enrolled at the St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hall picked up the game of golf at the age of nine and quickly progressed in the game. By high school, Hall was competing in athletics through his local public school, Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, ascending to the No. 1 ranking for junior golfers in the city by his senior year.
In May 1999, a 16-year-old Hall attended a golf clinic at Glenview Golf Course in Cincinnati hosted by Tiger Woods and the Tiger Woods Foundation. On Wednesday, Hall discussed how Woods – who had to withdraw this week due to back problems -- was his golfing inspiration.
“The first time I saw Tiger, I was 13 or 14 years old and he kept winning all the U.S. Amateurs and all of his tournaments,” Hall said. “I just remember sitting with my dad in the living room, watching him play and winning. I was like, I want to be like him. He works really hard and his will to win is strong and he just has such a passion.”
Kevin Hall press conference news conference before Genesis Open
In addition to receiving swing tips from Woods at the clinic, the foundation selected Hall to participate in the 1999 Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, California. At the time, Tiger Woods Foundation was given 18 exemptions into the junior tournament. Hall would graduate as Valedictorian from St. Rita School for the Deaf and attended The Ohio State University on an academic and athletic scholarship.
At Ohio State, Hall became the school’s first African American to play golf on scholarship and was named a team captain during his junior and senior seasons. Hall led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten team title and captured the conference’s individual championship as well in 2004. Following his graduation from Ohio State, Hall turned professional and is currently playing as a member on the SwingThought Pro Golf Tour and the Advocates Pro Golf Tour.
On Wednesday, Hall discussed the state of his golf game, saying it was in good shape and that he was having his best season. He won two tournaments – one in Atlanta and one in Los Angeles.
“I feel like I’m really confident in my game and I’ve been really improving one day at a time,” he said. “So I feel like I’m ready for this week.”
Hall last played on TOUR in the 2006 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. He remains hopeful that he can one day compete on TOUR.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work that way where you want to go quickly,” he said. “You kind of have to get there one step at a time, so that’s what I’m going through right now.”
He said any frustration he’s felt about not yet achieving his goal quickly evaporates.
“I’m the kind of person that maybe I’ll get a little bit frustrated for like a day or two, but then I’m ready to get up in the morning and I’m ready to start my day and I’m all better,” Hall said. “I don’t allow frustration to keep me down.”
Named in 2017 to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the annual PGA TOUR event at Riviera has given an exemption to a golfer representing a minority background for nearly a decade.
Previous exemption recipients include Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Joseph Bramlett (2011), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014), Carlos Sainz, Jr. (2015) and J.J. Spaun (2016).
"The Sifford family is tremendously honored for the recognition of our father's accomplishments by the Tiger Woods Foundation and the Genesis Open,” Charles Sifford Jr. said. "We are most certain he would beam with pride and gratitude for this momentous honor of the diversity exemption in his name. It is really special coming from Tiger, knowing the bond that developed between him and my father."
“I’m incredibly proud to honor my hero Charlie Sifford through this exemption into the Genesis Open,” Woods said.