2006: Son’s success worth sacrifices
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Percy Hall will never say that what he does for his family is out of the ordinary. To him, it’s just what a father should do.
Hall’s son Kevin is deaf. A severe case of meningitis took his hearing at age 2. But from an early age, Hall made sure his son was afforded every opportunity to succeed in life. After all, Percy Hall didn’t grow up with a father. His mother took care of him and his two older sisters on the family’s farm in Selma, Ala.
“She didn’t have a lot of money,” Hall said. “But she had love and she taught me that. As a father, I wanted to pass off those things from my mother to my child.”
Golfweek will honor Hall as its Father of the Year June 17 at Golfweek’s 24th annual Father & Son Open at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
Percy, 60, and his wife, Jackie, enrolled Kevin into kindergarten at St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, where he stayed until graduating as valedictorian of his senior class. He was a standout prep golfer, then became the first African-American to receive a golf scholarship to Ohio State University.
“Our time had to be used for him. And with no regret,” Hall said. “It’s just being a parent. Maybe some people say it’s special. But to me, it’s what ought to be natural.”
When Kevin left the safety net the Halls created in 2000 for a Big Ten university, extra attention was needed. So instead of continuing to rack up vacation and sick time at his job as a meat cutter, the Halls decided Percy would retire in order to make Kevin’s transition as smooth as possible.
“He could see that I was around,” Hall said. “He could look out on the course and I would be there. And that was comforting to him. It made my wife feel better, really, to know someone was with him.”
But Percy did more than just aid in Kevin’s communication with players and coaches on the golf course. He was Kevin’s sports psychologist, travel guide, spiritual leader and life coach, and he has continued in those roles as his son pursues a professional golf career.
“He helps me understand how things work in the real world,” Kevin said about his father via e-mail. “Bills. People. Traveling. Hotels. How to take care of myself. He helps me understand that life isn’t easy, that I need to work hard to ensure that my dreams come true.”
The elder Hall joked that while Kevin was in college, “we almost owned our share of hotels,” because he traveled so much with his son. In fact, Hall’s parents, now married 31 years, were so immersed in Kevin’s life that, while traveling together to a tournament in 2003, they forgot it was their wedding anniversary. Despite the involvement, Ohio State coach Jim Brown said Percy never sought the limelight and was welcomed by the players at team meetings or on the course.
“Percy was always there, every tournament, supporting Kevin and even going out to dinner afterwards, paying his own way with the meals, just so Kevin could experience all the funny stuff that all the kids discuss,” Brown said.
In the spring of his senior season, Kevin posted a final-round 65 to win the Marshall Invitational by eight shots. It was Kevin’s first college victory, but for Percy, it meant so much more.
“You look back to where he was,” he said. “You remember the time when he had to learn to walk all over again after being in the hospital for 30 days. And not knowing whether he was going to live or not. He was 3 pounds, 14 ounces when he was born. All those times, and here he is playing college golf and winning an event.”
Said Kevin: “I could see my dad prancing around like a little kid. He was really excited. He’d flash me a smile and a thumbs-up sign every time I played a great hole. His way of saying, ‘Let’s go!’ After I holed my final putt and the win was all but wrapped up, I could see my dad crying a little bit. He gave me a big bear hug and said, ‘I’m proud of you. You played well.’ It’s every son’s dream to make his father happy.”
Percy and Jackie also were on hand three weeks later when Kevin won the 2004 Big Ten Championship on Mother’s Day, posting a 14-under 199 at the University of Michigan Golf Course, the lowest 54-hole total by an individual in Big Ten history.
Since graduating, Kevin has played on various mini-tours and has received sponsor exemptions to play in five PGA Tour events. He is planning to leave this fall and move to Florida for the winter, but it won’t be permanent just yet. That would be too hard on his parents, Kevin said, especially Percy, who has given up so much of his life to be a part of his son’s.
“My dad will do what he has to do to make sure I have everything I need to succeed,” Kevin said. “He’s not going to whine about making sacrifices. He doesn’t look at it that way.
“He’s a truly remarkable man.”