Kevin M. Hall will play in next week’s Genesis Open on a sponsor exemption – but not just any sponsor exemption.
Hall has received the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption, which has afforded a golfer representing a minority background the opportunity to compete in the PGA Tour event for nearly a decade.
Past recipients include Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Joseph Bramlett (2011), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014), Carlos Sainz Jr. (2015) and J.J. Spaun (2016).
“It is with great pleasure that I accept the invitation in honor of Mr. Sifford,” said Hall, who will tee it up in the Feb. 16-19 tournament at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
“I had the privilege to spend time with Mr. Sifford early in my golf career and I am very aware of his history. I am very excited for the opportunity to tee it up with the best players in the world and compete in such a prestigious event as the Genesis Open on behalf of the late Charlie Sifford.”
Hall, 34, has a unique story. He lost hearing at 2 years old because of H-flu meningitis, but began playing golf at age 9. He attended St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, but played on the golf team at nearby Winton Woods High. Hall then went on to play college golf at Ohio State, where he won the 2004 Big Ten Championship.
Now a professional, Hall is currently play the mini-tours, including the SwingThought Pro Golf Tour and the Advocates Pro Golf Tour.
“The Sifford family is tremendously honored for the recognition of our father’s accomplishments by the Tiger Woods Foundation and the Genesis Open,” Charles Sifford Jr. said. “We are most certain he would beam with pride and gratitude for this momentous honor of the diversity exemption in his name. It is really special coming from Tiger, knowing the bond that developed between him and my father.”
Said Woods, the tournament host: “I’m incredibly proud to honor my hero Charlie Sifford through this exemption into the Genesis Open. His sacrifices as a pioneer for golf allowed me to play the game.”
Hall remembers when he was 16 years old and attended a May 1999 golf clinic hosted by Woods at Glenview Golf Course in Cincinnati. He was selected that day to play in the 1999 Junior World Golf Championships later that year in San Diego. He also received some swing tips from Woods.
“Tiger told me to have a wider extension on the take-away,” Hall said. “It helped me hit the ball farther and straighter. Tiger then looked at me and said ‘see you on Tour someday.’ ”
Hall has made five career starts on the PGA Tour, his last coming in 2008.