Putting is deaf Hall’s biggest worry in Tour debut
by Morgan Kelly, USA TODAY
Kevin Hall has a handicap, but deafness isn’t it. Hall, who makes his debut on the PGA Tour in the U.S. Bank Classic in Milwaukee today, has been deaf since age 2.
He didn’t let that stop him from becoming valedictorian of his high school or leading Ohio State to a Big Ten title, and he says he won’t let it interfere with his goal to become a regular on the Tour.
“I was able to overcome this loss and not allow it to be used as a handicap or prevent me from doing what I wanted to do in my life,” he says in an interview conducted via e-mail. “My parents (Percy and Jackie) are a big reason for this.”
Hall became deaf after being diagnosed with H. flu meningitis at 2. He treated it as a mere bump in the road.
Hall, 22, has played competitively for 12 years. He began at 9 when his bowling coach, Don Barnes, asked if he could teach Hall the game.
Hall attended the St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati from age 3. Since St. Rita did not have a golf team, Kevin’s parents petitioned to allow him to play for the local public high school, Winton Woods. He was a four-year letter-winner at Winton Woods and valedictorian at St. Rita.
Hall then became the first African-American to play golf on scholarship for Ohio State.
“I knew that after four years at Ohio State I would know if I was ready to play on the PGA Tour or not. Getting a scholarship while realizing that dream was truly a blessing,” he says.
Now that those four years are over, Hall says he is ready, particularly after playing three events on the Nationwide Tour.
Today, Hall will be less concerned that he can’t hear the crowd cheering or may have trouble communicating with caddie Ryan McDaniel.
“I’m worried about making putts,” he says. “I have been on and off with my speed on the greens, and I have been missing putts by inches.”
Hall will play on a sponsor’s exemption this weekend.
“My goal is to make cuts on the PGA and Nationwide tours, gain experience that is valuable for the years after this year,” he says, “I want to improve every time I tee it up and to use this year as a springboard to get ready for a solid season in 2006 and on.”
Hall is blunt about his motivation: “Being black and deaf motivated me the most because there are some people who don’t believe that black people and deaf people have the tools needed to succeed in today’s society. It motivated me to prove those people wrong.”