Defending champ Na takes four-week break for good reason
September 11, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Kevin Na wins by five strokes at The Greenbrier
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Granted, Kevin Na could have cost himself a lot of money when he decided not to play the BMW Championship last month.
Play well there, and he might have made the field for the season-ending TOUR Championship where the $15 million FedExCup bonus was decided. But Na had a very good reason for skipping the second Playoffs event.
His name is Leo LeeWoo Na.
Leo arrived on August 19, the day after the BMW Championship concluded. He weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces and joined his sister Sophia and mother Jullianne in their family of four.
“I tried to push the name Kevin for the middle name, but it didn't work,” Na said, laughing. “My wife, she shut me down. … I thought I had more pull in the house, but no.”
Na said the decision not to play wasn’t an easy one but in the long run, family is the most important thing. And as it turned out, he enters his title defense at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier more rested than he might otherwise have been.
“It was weird having that much time off,” Na said. “… It's rare you get four weeks off in August. Like I said, I feel fresh. I'm ready to go and excited about this new season. Not only am I excited, the first tournament of the year I'm defending so there is more excitement.”
His title defense comes about 14 months after the actual victory due to the tournament’s new spot on the wrap-around schedule. But he remembers the 64 he shot that Sunday to come from one shot off the lead and beat Kelly Kraft by five like it was yesterday.
“I felt like I just made just about everything, everything I looked at,” Na said. “Cup looked about the size of a bucket. I have great memories coming here.
“I enjoyed coming here even before I won. It's a beautiful resort. It's a great place to bring your family, do some activities. I used to always like going skeet shooting here. That was one of the fun activities I always do.”
Na said the confidence he gained at The Greenbrier – which was his first victory in seven years – helped fuel his third PGA TOUR victory in May at the Charles Schwab Challenge. And oddly enough now, he’ll be defending two tournaments during the 2019-20 campaign.
Many players, Na among them, thought moving from July to September, would bring cooler temperatures to the West Virginia mountains. But while the leaves are beginning to get an orange tinge as fall approaches, the weather is unseasonably warm and the air muggy.
The Old White TPC doesn’t seem as generous as it has been in the past, either.
“Right now, it's very firm, very fast,” Na said. “I was just walking in here saying -- my agent asked me, how is the golf course playing? It's playing very difficult or I'm a terrible golfer, one or the other. … I don't think the scores are going to be quite as low if it stays as firm as it is.”