Chip Shots: PGA Tour winner overcomes mental block

Na Accepts Challenge




As I write this, it is Memorial Day and I feel blessed to have the freedom to take pen to hand to write about golf. This freedom came at a high price. So many have made the ultimate sacrifice. I am amazed to discover that only seven percent of the population of this country has ever served in the Armed Forces. To all that did serve, we salute you.

Now, let this serve as a warning to anyone who has students in school . . . keep this story away from them. The path that last week’s PGA Tour winner chose to follow is not one that I would recommend.

Kevin Na came to the United States from South Korea with his parents when he was just eight years old. His family settled in southern California and Kevin fell in love with golf and worked very hard to hone his skills. He was so good, in fact, that he left high school after his junior year and played in Asia and Europe preparing his game for the PGA Tour. In only nine tournaments in 2002 on the Asian Tour, Na had five top 10 finishes, including a win at the season-ending Volvo Masters. Then, in 2003, in his third attempt at Q-School, he graduated and was able to call himself a PGA Tour player. It wasn’t easy, but now, at age 35, he boasts three PGA Tour wins, is 31st in the world rankings, and has won over $31 million.

Many players gained access to the PGA Tour via of Q-school and in Na’s 2003 graduating class was Todd Hamilton. In 2004, I played somewhat of a smelly role in Hamilton’s Open Championship victory at Troon in Scotland. While husband Todd was engaged in a playoff with Ernie Els I was in the scoring trailer waiting with Todd’s wife and baby. In desperation, I was asked if I could somehow find a diaper for the baby. I ran to the clubhouse and asked around, having no success, but then I was told what I was seeking was called a “nappy.” I secured the “nappy,” rushed back to the scoring trailer, and made mommy and the baby very happy. Todd defeated Ernie Els in the playoff, so the whole Hamilton family had a happy ending.

Back to Na. Several years ago, Kevin suffered from a mental block which made it almost impossible to swing with a driver. Fellow pros always lamented when paired with Na. It was painful to watch as he stood on the tee with no confidence whatsoever that he could make a swing. At one point his lack of ability to take the club back had Na on the threshold of quitting the game but somehow, he battled past his mental block. Just asked anyone who has played this crazy game; you will realize that is no easy feat.

One of the perks of winning the Charles Schwab Challenge, besides the big fat check, was winning a tricked-out 1973 Dodge Challenger representing the year the Charles Schwab company was formed. Na, being the good guy that he is known to be, gave the car to his longtime caddie, Kenny Harmes. Harmes has been on the bag for Na since 2008 and has been through thick and thin with Kevin. Just seconds after the winning putt found the bottom of the cup, good guy Na told his caddie the car was his.

It seems that players with the first name of Kevin are on a roll at this Fort Worth Tour stop. Last year it was Kevin Kisner that claimed the title. This year, Kevin Na.

bobvoiceofgolf@gmail.com