NBA’s Kyle Kuzma talks his love for golf
January 18, 2022
By Jeff Eisenband , PGATOUR.COM
- January 18, 2022
- Kyle Kuzma, forward for the Washington Wizards, consistently breaks 90 on the course. (Courtesy of Skratch)
Kyle Kuzma has averaged just over 15 points per game in his five-year NBA career. If the 26-year-old Washington Wizards forward can keep that figure higher than his handicap, he’ll be happy. He’s currently a 15 handicap and is consistently breaking 90 on the golf course.
While Kuzma grew up down the street from the PGA TOUR’s Buick Open outside Flint, Michigan, it was not until Summer 2020 that he caught the golf bug. While in the NBA Bubble at Disney World, Kuzma began spending his off-days on the course, as golf was one of a handful of leisure activities offered to the players. Kuzma, then a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, left the Bubble with a championship ring and a commitment to working on his short game.
Recently, in a video for Skratch, golf influencer Roger Steele linked up with Kuzma, as the two explored historic Langston Golf Course, the second racially-desegregated golf course in Washington D.C. Steele and Kuzma mingled with some of the regulars, took a few cuts on the course and may or may not have slipped in a few mulligans.
At PGATOUR.COM, we had our own questions for the budding golfer.
PGATOUR.COM: How'd you get into golf?
KYLE KUZMA: I got into golf briefly in college. I had a lot of golf friends that played college at the University of Utah. And then I kind of went away from the game after I got drafted into the NBA, obviously had a lot of different focuses, but when we had the NBA Bubble in Orlando, I just got out back on the golf course with a few of my assistant coaches and fell in love with the game. I had a bunch of fun with a bunch of guys and I’ve been hooked since.
PGATOUR.COM: Yeah, so about that bubble. When they said you guys could only do so many things and golf was one of them, how did guys in the NBA react?
KYLE KUZMA: Well, it's not that many guys that play golf in the NBA. I mean, there's a bunch, but there's not that many regulars. We had a few options. It was either golf, fishing or bowling. Fishing is kind of dirty and bowling is inside. So, I think golf was an easy way just to be outside and still just have fun and enjoy your time within that bubble. It did its job for sure.
PGATOUR.COM: “The Last Dance” came out before that and we saw Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen playing golf into the NBA Finals. You were on the Lakers and won the championship in the Bubble. Were you still playing golf by the time the NBA Finals were happening?
KYLE KUZMA: Oh yeah, we were playing golf all throughout the playoffs. Every off-day, even in the Finals, I got out there and golfed. It's not a real taxing sport. If it's not cart-path only, you can get out there and just drive up to your ball and hit it, get back in your cart and chill. It's an easy sport on your body and it's good for the mental. When you're playing basketball at a high level, it fries your brain, and having something to do that has nothing to do with basketball and get your mind off of it is great.
PGATOUR.COM: How do you think golf has helped you just relax and improved your mental health?
KYLE KUZMA: It's helped my mental health in extreme amounts – sometimes – obviously, I get out there and I might hit the ball really good. And then the next one, I might lose a couple balls. It's up and down, but at the same time, it just does a great thing because it gets you out of your own reality. It's only you and the ball out there, minus some friends, but a bunch of times, you may just be out there drinking, having a good time and having fun. That's what the game's about, just having fun.
PGATOUR.COM: In terms of friends, who have become some of your golf buddies within the NBA?
KYLE KUZMA: I golf a lot with Jason Kidd. I golf a lot with Alex Caruso, but it's so many guys. So many guys actually golf. I know Jayson Tatum, we've talked a bunch about golf, Donovan Mitchell golfs, Karl Towns golfs, I’ve golfed with Devin Booker, who is another good guy to golf with. It's all over the place. The popularity within our sport is gaining traction.
PGATOUR.COM: You're 6’9” and we’ve seen some crazy swings on social media, especially during the Bubble. Who has the wildest golf swing you've seen?
KYLE KUZMA: That I've seen in person? Well, I don't think it really counts because we were in the Bubble, but JaVale McGee is like 7’2” and he was playing with clubs that were for a guy probably about 5’10.” Obviously, his swing is going to be pretty nasty out there just because of those dynamics.
PGATOUR.COM: For you as a 6’9” guy, I'm sure you've had to find custom clubs and what not. How has it been adjusting to the sport with your size?
KYLE KUZMA: It’s been pretty easy. I'm a Puma-sponsored athlete and Puma works in conjunction with Cobra, so the Cobra guys down in Carlsbad, they've done a great job with me, just helping me out, making sure my clubs fit, making sure I have extended clubs, making sure my clubheads are slanted exactly for me and my swing. It’s been pretty easy, but it's definitely been a challenge being taller than most.
PGATOUR.COM: In the Skratch video, we see you at Langston Golf Course in the Washington D.C. area, which obviously has a lot of history. What was that experience like?
KYLE KUZMA: It was very cool. I always love playing golf courses, but even more at historic golf courses and Langston was a very interesting one. It's one of the oldest African-American courses and it's just great to get out there and play where a course has been over years and years and years and many people have passed and come through it. It was a pretty unique opportunity for me.
PGATOUR.COM: What was it like hanging out with host Roger Steele for the day?
KYLE KUZMA: Oh man, hanging out with Roger was real dope. I think he's a fantastic influencer of the game, especially him being different from what most would say a golfer should look like. I think he adds an element to the sport that is really innovative and he's just pushing the game along. He's a fantastic person and I really enjoyed my time out there with him.
PGATOUR.COM: For you, as a kid from Flint, Michigan, the state has had a lot of PGA TOUR events and has a rich golf history. Where did golf fit in growing up?
KYLE KUZMA: Michigan has amazing courses for one, and I've always known that about the state. The Buick Open used to be in my hometown in Grand Blanc, right outside Flint, so being from that state, you kind of grasp that.
PGATOUR.COM: Did you ever go to that tournament as a kid or did you experience kind of the hoopla of the town during that time?
KYLE KUZMA: You experienced the hoopla more than going. For me, especially when I was a kid, it waseither basketball or football. That's all I really cared about. I didn't really play other sports and didn't even care about any other sports. That's all I focused on, but you knew when the Buick Open was in town, it was a big deal. You have a lot of famous people coming to town, a lot of good golfers from all over the world. You definitely can feel it.
PGATOUR.COM: When you think about Michigan and D.C., what are some opportunities that you may now have to give back to the community using the game of golf?
KYLE KUZMA: For me, I have a big platform. If you follow me, you'll see things like me loving the game of golf or me loving wine or me loving cigars. I think it's really unique because we're going into a new era within the game of golf. You see a lot of different people playing the game, picking up clubs from all different races, all different minority groups. I think it's great for the game, as it continues to grow, you get different faces playing the game.
PGATOUR.COM: How important is it for young kids to see a face like yourself playing golf, even as a hobby?
KYLE KUZMA: I think it's big time because there’s just so many outlets in life. I know kids who are underprivileged or kids that look like me, you're never really thinking of picking up a golf club. You know, golf’sa great sport for networking, it's a great sport to have fun and it's amazing.
PGATOUR.COM: Have you watched a lot of PGA TOUR golf and are there some players you've enjoyed watching?
KYLE KUZMA: I love Bryson. We conversate here and there and I love what he does for the game. He's so scientifically sound with his analytics. That's something I really love. Obviously being a Tiger [Woods] fan, everyone loves Tiger. I love Phil Mickelson. I think he's a great man and an even better golfer. With me, picking up golf and being real passionate about it has allowed me to really study the game and learn about it more.
PGATOUR.COM: What's the best part of your game right now?
KYLE KUZMA: Definitely my short game, which is kind of funny because everyone's like, I'm backwards because usually that's the hardest part. And I'm terrible at driving. That's probably my worst, but if I can get anywhere 130 yards or less, I'll use my pitching wedge, I’ll use my 56 and I’m good.
PGATOUR.COM: Most people would say a mid-range jump shot is the most difficult part of the NBA, but you seem to have that down.
KYLE KUZMA: (Laughs) That's true. That's very true.
PGATOUR.COM: Now in the Skratch video, you say you want to go to Tahoe (for the American Century Championship). That's the goal. How far is your game from being in pro-am events?
KYLE KUZMA: I mean, about three years. I need three solid years. I've only been playing for about two years now. I'm an under-90 golfer, so that's pretty good. I think in three years, I'll be even better. I don't want to just go just to have fun. I want to go and win. For me, I got a ways to go first. I want to be competitive.
PGATOUR.COM: I like how you say “under-90.” Do you have a handicap yet?
KYLE KUZMA: My handicap right now is about a 15. So it's getting low. It's getting down there.
PGATOUR.COM: In the video, you’re rocking a red Ferrari jacket. How do you think you could help innovate golf fashion out there?
KYLE KUZMA: I think golf is a sport that is heading into a new era. You want to keep it as traditional as possible because it is important, everything has been the same for hundreds of years, but I don't think there should be limits on what you can really wear out there. Visually, you see me wearing a Ferrari jacket and the jacket is no different than having a pullover on. I'm a Ferrari fan, I love their work and it made sense to go out there on the golf course with it.
PGATOUR.COM: Now that you've seen all of these things in golf over the last few years, what were some of your misconceptions about golf that you now see differently?
KYLE KUZMA: I always used to be scared going to a course because I thought it was really serious, but when I'm getting out there and playing with my friends, we're just really just out there drinking and having fun.Sometimes it's about going out there just to get away, escape your personal life, go out there and have a little fun and talk to people.
PGATOUR.COM: What are your long term goals in golf, especially because I'm sure you're competitive with some of those NBA guys that you mentioned?
KYLE KUZMA: If I can be in my 40s and become almost scratch, I think that's a good goal right there.
PGATOUR.COM: I’ll spell that Skratch on paper.
KYLE KUZMA: No pun intended, by the way.