Deaf Golfer Continues to Chase his Dream

By Associated PressMay 29, 2006, 4:00 pm
Kevin Hall might have a good laugh if he were aware of all that goes on around him on the golf course.
He was on the first tee at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when the starter reminded the gallery that no cameras were allowed and 'please make sure your cell phones are turned off.' In New Orleans, as Hall stood over a 6-foot birdie putt on the first green, a volunteer instinctively raised a sign that said, 'Quiet, Please.' Then, realizing who was about to putt, he shrugged and slowly lowered it.
Hall's world has been quiet as long as he can remember.
Meningitis that nearly took his life at age 2 robbed him of hearing. But he refused to surrender a normal life filled with big dreams. He was not sure where they would take him until a family friend put a golf club in his hands, setting in motion Hall's hopes of becoming a PGA Tour player like no other.
'People will always see me as deaf and black,' Hall said through a sign language interpreter. 'I don't think people will see me as just another golfer. It just won't happen. That's my story. I guess it will always be my story. But the positive thing about it is that I can use my story to inspire other people, to help them see that they can do what they want, and to help them pursue their dreams.
'If I can help one person, that would make me happy.'
Hall's dream remains a work in progress, although patience and perseverance are two traits he knows well.
Determined to succeed, he became one of the top junior golfers in Cincinnati. He was good enough to become the first black to receive a golf scholarship at Ohio State, great enough to win the Big 10 championship two years ago by 11 shots.
Hall was medalist at the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying last year, but didn't make it further. He now plays on mini-tours, and he tries Monday to qualify on the Nationwide Tour. He also asks PGA Tour events for sponsor's exemptions, receiving five the last two years, although he has yet to make the cut.
But he is no charity case.
'When I write my letters to tournaments, I tell them that I'm deaf and I tell them that I'm black,' Hall said. 'And then I tell them I don't want them to look at me as different. I want them to look at me as a person who got through life, fighting, working hard. And I want them to look at me as a person who wants a chance - a chance to play with the best players in the world.'
He gets another chance this coming week at the Memorial, the most special exemption of them all.
Jack Nicklaus, another Ohio native and former Big 10 champion at Ohio State, is the tournament host. Hall played Muirfield Village about a dozen times while in college. This will be the first time he has played the PGA Tour in his home state.
'I was shocked,' he said of getting the exemption. 'All I know is I have to bring my A-plus-plus game.'
Nicklaus now lives in south Florida and travels the world with his golf course design business. He was not aware of Hall's story until the producers of the ARETE Awards for courage in sports asked him to introduce a feature on Hall.
Nicklaus, like everyone else who first meets the 23-year-old Hall, was impressed and inspired.
'I was amazed to learn what he had overcome in his life and golf career, the way he faces challenges with commitment and determination,' Nicklaus said. 'He's a fighter. He fought death as an infant, and he has had to fight the challenges that come with being deaf. For those who seem to think he can't make it in this sport, he seems to use that to fuel his motivation.'
No doubt, there are obstacles.
Donald Barnes, the family friend who took Hall to the golf course at age 8, wondered if being deaf would make it difficult for Hall to keep his balance, key to a sound golf swing.
'He got perfect with it,' Barnes said. 'I've never seen a person pick up anything as fast as he did.'
Most players can tell how they're hitting the ball by the way it sounds coming off the club. Hall doesn't have that luxury. He depends entirely on feel.
'Hearing is huge,' Paul Azinger said. 'There is no mistaking the sound of a bad shot. I bet that if you stuck earplugs in any player's ear, it would neutralize his game. I think this guy is amazing.'
Hall doesn't have casual conversations with his caddie as they stroll down the fairway. They must be face-to-face for Hall to read lips. And if that doesn't work, Hall keeps a pad of paper in his bag to write notes. His caddie at Pebble Beach, Dennis Mitchell, tapped him on the shoulder on the fourth tee, then used hand motions to remind Hall to keep his hand cupped on impact.
These are moments when spectators realize Hall is deaf.
'I don't act like a deaf person,' Hall said. 'I talk, I laugh, I can read lips. But when they see my signing, then I see their eyes going, 'Oh, what's he doing? What's that?' And then their faces look like idiots, and my dad has to explain I'm deaf. Their reaction is priceless.'
Matt Hansen played two rounds with Hall in New Orleans and called it one of the best moments of his rookie season.
'I had to make sure there was eye contact, and I was better at that today,' he said after the second round. 'It's amazing he can compete on this level. I would have thought being deaf would be a big hindrance. But this is a special player.'
Percy Hall wasn't sure how to proceed when doctors told him his son was deaf. He learned sign language and devised games to teach Kevin how to communicate. And he was determined to treat Kevin as a normal kid, telling him that being deaf would not keep him from doing whatever he pursued.
'My wife and I promised to do whatever it took to give him a chance to be successful,' Percy Hall said.
Kevin joined a bowling league and carried a 205 average. He played baseball. But he found his passion in golf, and he found inspiration from a junior clinic in 1998 when Tiger Woods came to Cincinnati.
Woods made his way down the long line of juniors, stopping to give a word or two of advice and encouragement. When he reached Hall, the teenager was hitting the ball over the range and into the backyards of houses. Woods spoke to Hall's mother, Jackie, who signed the instructions - for more length, extend his arms to get a wider arc in his swing.
The next tee shot went 30 yards farther, and Hall's smile lit up the practice range.
Woods also smiled and left Hall words to consider: 'See you on tour someday.'
Hall believes he will get there eventually. The sponsor's exemptions - Milwaukee and the Texas Open last year, Pebble Beach, New Orleans and the Memorial so far this year - have shown him how far he has come and what he needs to improve, mostly his short game.
Even while missing the cut, he has never felt he doesn't belong. He doesn't believe he is dreaming too big.
'I see life differently than other people,' Hall said. 'I almost died when I was very young. I was sick. When I got through that, I lost my hearing. And I said, 'I'm not going to give up.' I got a second chance at life. God gave me a second chance. So I don't see myself being out of my league. I don't have time to say, 'Oh, my God, I don't belong here.' What I do have time for is to enjoy life one day at a time.
'If I think that I'll be good, then I probably will,' he said. 'I just have to keep on working hard and never give up.'
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.