Kevin Na Playing for His Father
At the famed Riviera Country Club catching up with Kevin Na, the 27-year-old young gun on the PGA tour, was exciting. Na was in the mix and topping the leader board with Fred Couples, Aaron Baddeley, Vijay Singh, and fleetingly Phil Mickelson during the prestigious $6,500,000 Northern Trust Open.
His superb 67 on Saturday put Na just one shot off the lead and another good opportunity to get his first win. He teed off Sunday morning in the final pairing with Baddeley and Couples but with a cold putter he was frustrated and just couldn’t get any momentum going till too late to overtake Aaron Baddeley for the win. “It was a great day playing with Freddie and Badds – he really played great to win. They are two great guys,” smiled Na. Na finished third taking home tons of valuable FedEx Points, improved ranking plus enhancing his President’s Cup standing.
Kevin Na may have put too much pressure on himself Sunday. Obviously a win is key to all players – particularly the first one – but even more important as his Father, Yong, is suffering from leukaemia diagnosed last year. His Mom, Annie, who was at Riviera every day rain or shine, is leaving for Seoul shortly to be with her husband where he is getting treatment. Kevin’s wish was to win and send the trophy to him with his Mom as a souvenir of all his Dad has done for his game and their very first visit to Riviera to see the Tournament almost twenty years ago.
Na, who turned pro at 17, has also played and won on the Asian Tour and the European Tour before getting his PGA Tour card. Older Brother Austin, a top junior golfer, caddied for him and they travelled together during his European and Asian tour days. Na feels “the European Tour taught me a lot, toughened me. I learned how to play in wind and rain. I loved the travel and the different countries.”
Born in Seoul, his parents moved to Los Angeles when he was eight. At 12 Na was the youngest junior ever to qualify for the US Junior Amateur in USGA history. He had a sensational junior golf career; he won the International Orange Bowl gaining the number 1 junior ranking. After over 100 wins as an amateur, Na turned pro due to financial constraints.
“5Qs - Five EXEGOLF questions”
1. Who was the biggest influence in your becoming a profession golfer?
“My Father. When I was nine he brought me to Riviera to watch this golf tournament, my first ever exposure to professional golf live. My Dad told me if I wanted to fulfil my dream of being on TV I should play golf and be good at it. So I started to play golf,” laughs Na. “My Dad got me clubs and I trained at a little par 3 course with his help and guidance. Fred Couples, Davis Love III were my heroes. I really liked their swings and style. Then, of course, came Tiger too.”
2. What player was your role model?
“Ben Hogan was key in modeling my swing with my Dad. I still look at footage of him with my coach and try to imitate certain things.”
3. What was your most satisfying moment in golf?
“Getting through PGA Tour School. I was so nervous. My last putt was five feet and I had a three shot cushion but I just had to sink it. Then I exploded with happiness and hugged my Mom, Dad, and my Brother Austin. I was so happy, it was so stressful.”
4. What is your Ideal Foursome?
“Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer.”
5. The five key things a golfer should never forget?
“Breathe, tempo, trust in your swing, accelerate through, and be positive. I try to never forget, but sometimes…,” smiled Na.
Na’s got game; hopefully his “V” will come soon.Written by Susanne Kemper
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