Hall undeterred by grind of Hooters Tour life

Kevin Hall (file photo)

Kevin Hall (file photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Kevin Hall wanted to clarify his response, so he whirled around the laptop and continued to pound away on the keyboard. 

Rat-tat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. 

A few moments later, he reviewed his answer and nodded. Content, Hall pushed the laptop back across the table. 

“I’m deaf. It’s a quiet world out there,” he wrote. “Try that for 5 hours on the golf course and it can be brutal sometimes. But I find a way to deal with it.”

Against that backdrop we reintroduce Hall, who shot 3-over 75 at Shingle Creek in the opening round of a Hooters Tour Winter Series event, which took on an entirely new meaning Monday. A howling, bone-chilling wind plunged temperatures into the low 40s, and pros scoured the local sporting goods stores for ski caps, insulated jackets and winter gloves. Sand blew out of the bunkers. Some flagsticks nearly were ripped from the cup. It was the kind of miserable round, players admitted afterward, that made them question why they would endure so much self-inflicted torture. 

“I just could not find my swing, especially when it was cold,” Hall wrote. “It was the best 75 I’ve ever shot.” 

In a red Nike pullover and black winter hat, Hall, 28, walked into a local restaurant to defrost and discuss his round, his life, his toil on the mini-tours. He met this correspondent in the lobby, where two arm chairs were set up around a circular wooden table, a laptop in the middle. For the untrained, this was the best form of communication. Type a question into a Microsoft Word document, and Hall would thoughtfully respond. 

Rat-tat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. 

Like many players on the Hooters Tour, Hall is a former collegiate star trying to make it to the PGA Tour, one $11,000 winner’s check at a time. During his senior season at Ohio State, in 2004, he won the Big Ten Championship by 11 shots. A year later, he earned a sponsor exemption and made his PGA Tour debut in Milwaukee. His story was splashed across national sports pages, and boy, was it a compelling read: an amiable African-American golfer who, after a near-fatal bout with meningitis, was robbed of his hearing at age 2, and who, after years of training, now could compete with the Tour’s elite. Tournament directors salivated. Hall played at Pebble Beach, and at the Memorial, and in New Orleans. 

But success proved fleeting. He missed the cut in all five of his PGA Tour starts and seven of his 10 Nationwide events, his last sponsor exemption arriving in 2008. 

What followed were stops on various mini-tours and Monday qualifiers for the Nationwide Tour. He twice has won on the Hooters circuit, at Winter Series events in 2008 and ’09, and he’s earned $111,082 since making his debut in 2006. There’s little to be desired about life on the mini-tours, surely, when playing in front of no one except immediate family members, on courses that may not be in peak condition, in cities that are unattractive for 30-year-old bachelors. 

“Can this kind of lifestyle be lonely, especially if you’re deaf?” he was asked.

Rat-tat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. 

“I have my moments,” Hall wrote. “The game can beat you down, but you have to realize that there are things outside of life that matter more than golf. Family. Friends. Other things. It is just a game. You have to find a way to enjoy it no matter what, or you have no chance.” 

On the course there are few awkward moments. Hall laughs and smiles, fist-bumps and acknowledges good shots from his playing competitors. On the par-3 fifth Monday, Hall backed off a shot not because a gaggle of geese were honking loudly, but because clumps of dirt had flown into his eyes. The geese? Hall didn’t notice. 

He is accompanied most rounds by his parents, Percy and Jackie, both of whom are retired. In the opening round, Percy, with a white towel slung around his neck, rode in the cart alongside Kevin, helping him gauge the wind and tend the flag. 

“He still has the passion for it, and he’s not going to give up,” Percy Hall said. “He’s going to keep working at it, and he’ll find out what it takes to be successful out here.” 

Kevin’s four Winter Series starts have been indicative of his entire career: two top-15 finishes, two missed cuts. In 85 career Hooters starts, he’s missed the cut in 31 events (36 percent). There has always been a lack of consistency. When asked why, Kevin grimaced. 

Rat-tat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. 

“I have to be a much more patient golfer and play my own game,” he wrote. “I can’t force the issue or try to hit shots I can’t hit. I feel that I can contend for tournaments next year, so my goal is to stay patient and play the best golf I can play and see what happens. 

“I can’t control the future, but I do know that I can control myself and how I prepare.” 

That’s what made his first-stage dropout at PGA Tour Q-School so crushing. Having come down with pneumonia, Hall had only a week to prepare for the tournament that would determine the course of his 2011 season. He was in position to advance to the second stage until his putter betrayed him, coming undone during a final-round 74. (He finished T-35; only 23 positions were available.) 

His 2011 season now in limbo, Hall figures to play several events on the NPGT and Hooters Tour, with a few Monday qualifiers on off-weeks. He still receives financial backing from Cincinnati Bell, an Internet and telephone provider in his hometown, and “hopefully there are some more opportunities,” wrote Hall, who earned $19,178 in 12 Hooters Tour starts last season (54th on the money list). “God has a plan for me and I just have to be patient and see what it is.” 

At the end of a 30-minute question-and-answer session, Hall was asked, “What are you motivated by?” The question carried an even greater significance after fellow African-Americans Joseph Bramlett and Shasta Averyhardt recently qualified for their respective tours via Q-School. 

Hall slid back in his chair and smiled wide.

Rat-tat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. 

“I want to be a great example for deaf people to be able to do whatever they want to do in life,” he wrote. “That’s part of it. The other part is that I want to know that I can look back when all is said and done, and I want to feel that I gave it my all. I want to enjoy the journey. And I want to be the best golfer I can be.” 

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification

  • PGA
  • CHMP
  • WEB
[[PGAtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next
[[CHMPtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next
[[NWIDtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next