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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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”