PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — There’s little doubt who is the coolest cat at The Villages.
His name is Kevin Hall and though 34 might seem young to be living at Central Florida’s world famous mass-retirement community, there is good reason. He’s a pro golfer who needs Florida sunshine to pursue his dream and who also happens to be deaf.
The Villages has a large hard-of-hearing community and Hall feels at home near Florida’s mini-tour world. His pursuit of a tour card vaults to another level Thursday when he tees up at Riviera Country Club courtesy of the Charlie Sifford exemption, an annual spot given to a minority golfer in hopes of advancing diversity in the game.
Hall’s parents, Percy and Jackie, will be on hand for Hall’s PGA Tour debut. Dad is also his coach, mom his eloquent spokesman who unflinchingly recounts when Hall lost his hearing and how he has overcome the odds to succeed as a golfer. Though as Hall proved during a mesmerizing Wednesday press conference, he does just fine speaking for himself.
“Really it’s an honor for me to be here,” Hall said as a sign language interpreter translated for the assembled media. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played on the PGA [Tour] and I’m really excited to be here this week. I’m a little nervous, but I’m ready to go. I can’t wait.”
Hall won a Big Ten Championship by 11 shots not long after the death of his grandmother and has toiled on various mini-tours since.
“I’ve played on the Advocate Tour, the Pro Golf Tour, I played four tournaments last year. I played some on the Swing Thought and I’ve played some qualifiers. So that’s been my schedule last year. Oh, also I forgot to mention that I played in the Q-School this year.”
Hall described the moment he received word of the Sifford exemption.
“I almost choked up. I needed to drink some water. I was so surprised but I was really shocked, you know. I read the email from Tiger Woods and I read it and I was like wow, I’m in.”
Wait, Tiger Woods sent the email?
“No, I’m sorry, it was Tiger Woods Foundation. I’m not that famous yet.”
Hall’s infectious grin and exuberance should endear him to playing partners J.T. Boston and Kevin Dougherty. The group starts Genesis Open play Thursday at 11:35 am Eastern off of Riviera’s elevated first tee.
For Hall, there is little doubt who is his primary inspiration: Tiger Woods.
“I just remember sitting with my dad in the living room watching him play and winning and I was like, I want to be like him. You know, he works really hard and he works his will to win is strong and he just has such a passion. So that’s my golf inspiration, Tiger.”
Hall attended a golf clinic at Glenview Golf Course in Cincinnati hosted by Tiger Woods in 1999 and enjoyed an encounter with the golf legend.
“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.’”
That day has arrived in grand style.