Jason Kokrak has performed on the PGA Tour, on and off, since 2012. However till round a 12 months in the past, even a critical golf fan may very well be forgiven for not realizing who he was. Kokrak spent most of his profession nicely exterior the highest 100 within the Official World Golf Ranking––adequate to be among the best gamers on the planet, actually, however a good distance from the game’s prime tier. He’d gained a couple of occasions on the game’s lower-level excursions however had by no means lifted a trophy on the PGA Tour.
All of that has modified in latest months. The 36-year-old Ohioan gained his first PGA Tour occasion final October, the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, and adopted it up by profitable the Charles Schwab Problem in Texas on the finish of Might. He has been among the best gamers on the planet since golf resumed after its pandemic pause, and he’s risen all the best way to No. 24 within the international rankings. Final week, we caught up with Kokrak throughout a press tour for his Father’s Day sweepstakes with Eagle Uncommon Bourbon and Buffalo Hint Distillery. We talked about enhancing with age, how he discovered placing, what professional golfers wish to drink, and extra.
Males’s Journal: Not numerous golfers change into top-25 gamers of their mid-30s. How did you discover this degree of play later in your profession?
Jason Kokrak: Properly, I’ve all the time been a sluggish learner at each degree of the sport. Originally of highschool I used to be respectable, after which by senior 12 months I used to be fairly good, profitable tournaments fairly often. Similar factor in school: I’d gained a couple of occasions, however nothing too loopy. After I turned professional, I used to be OK at first. I believe I lacked confidence. Then I began profitable an occasion right here, an occasion there, and as soon as I obtained that feeling of slightly little bit of confidence and belonging, I took it to a brand new degree. As soon as I determine it out and learn to win, the floodgates open, and I are inclined to play loads higher once I really feel extra comfy.
On the professional degree, all these guys are good ball-strikers. All these guys are good putters, and good pitchers of the golf ball. Within the recreation of golf, a giant chunk of taking part in nicely is confidence.
Did you ever contemplate quitting skilled golf?
Yeah, completely. My spouse and a pair different individuals know this very nicely. We have been dwelling in Charlotte. I used to be beginning to go to job interviews and look down the street of getting an actual job as an alternative of taking part in golf for a dwelling. I simply obtained discouraged after a pair years on the mini-tours of not taking part in nice however not taking part in badly, and I didn’t need to put the monetary burden on myself with a mortgage or asking different individuals to again me. I used to be all the way down to my final match, my final entry payment, lease—every thing was culminating with this final occasion.
I went to a job interview; I can’t even bear in mind who it was with. Midway by means of the interview, I regarded up and stated, “Sir, I hate to let you know this, however this simply shouldn’t be for me. I’m not gonna do that.” I went house, and that was the kick within the butt I wanted to begin grinding to get to the place I’m at right this moment. I didn’t win that subsequent match, however I performed very nicely. I made some money. I used to be like, “That is what I must do. I simply must work more durable.”
Golf is a recreation that offers you nothing. It’s a must to work for every thing you’ve gotten on this recreation. That’s what I’ve completed over the past couple years. Ever for the reason that center of faculty, I took one side of the sport yearly and stated, “All proper, I must take this to the subsequent degree or get slightly higher at this.”
In case you’re taking part in nicely and never profitable, you’re nonetheless taking part in nicely. The wins will come. In case you’d informed me I’d have a 10-year profession and not using a win, I’d’ve stated, “signal me up.” I’m simply comfortable to name myself a two-time winner now.
Since Phil Mickelson gained the PGA Championship, there’s been numerous dialogue about what it takes for older gamers to maintain up with these athletic 20-somethings who’re driving the hell out of the ball off the tee. What’s your coaching routine? How have you ever managed to hold with that group?
I believe it helps lifting my very massive 2- and 4-year-old youngsters up and down all day and holding them. And doing yard work. The week earlier than the PGA Championship, I helped my cousin unfold some mulch. I’ve by no means been one to draw back from slightly little bit of guide labor; I used to chop my very own grass.
I wish to work out, however I don’t like the best way my recreation feels once I do work out. I’m sore. My brief recreation struggles with it. I do attempt to eat slightly bit higher, as of the final 12 months or two. Final 12 months I dropped about 30 kilos. I’ve put a couple of kilos again on, however consuming more healthy and ingesting sufficient water goes a good distance towards taking part in nicely.
All people’s slightly bit completely different. Phil’s been ingesting his espresso and doing his factor, and that appears to be working for him. Tiger used to spend all day on the golf course, figuring out within the morning, figuring out within the afternoon. It was simply 24/7 golf. If I did that, I’d get burned out very, in a short time. You be taught what works for you and the way your recreation feels the perfect. I’d like to have a six pack and appear to be a mannequin, however I’m simply not that sort of man.
Many people go our whole lives with out determining the way to putt. Going by strokes gained statistics, you’re now among the best putters on the planet this 12 months. How’d you do it? Was it only a matter of shifting to an extended putter, or have you ever found a secret to this extremely tough a part of golf?
I all the time say when my friends are scuffling with placing: “Properly, you want a D-Rob.” I’ve obtained a D-Rob, and he reads the greens. [Note: Kokrak’s caddy is David Robinson, a former pro himself.] I don’t contemplate myself a nasty inexperienced reader, however there are a lot of intricacies of green-reading: Bermuda greens versus bent grass, and bent versus poe. There’s loads that goes into it. I wouldn’t say that I’ve discovered the key to placing, however I’ve discovered a means that works for me. I’ve all the time had a very good stroke, it simply felt slightly inconsistent. I used to be extra of a streaky putter earlier than. I believe simply the general follow and having a man like David Robinson keeping track of alignment, path, even grip stress. He can inform when my grip is simply too agency.
Once we lengthened the putter to 36, I used to be capable of get each of my palms totally on the putter grip. That appeared to provide me extra stability in my stroke. I see that loads, however there’s nobody proper solution to putt. Tiger Woods was an unbelievable putter, however most individuals don’t know he opens the putter and closes the putter greater than most different nice putters within the recreation. There are simply so many issues that go into placing. You’ve gotta discover what works for you, what you’re comfy with, and in addition what you wish to look down at. In case you look down at a putter and also you’re not comfy it, it’s not gonna work.
You’re working with Eagle Uncommon Bourbon and Buffalo Hint Distillery on a sweepstakes for Father’s Day weekend. What’s on provide?
It’s been a tremendous partnership. I particularly just like the Eagle Uncommon ethos of reaching larger; it’s an unimaginable model for me to be a associate with.
With the U.S. Open arising, in addition to Father’s Day, we’re doing a giveaway: an all-expenses paid journey for 2 days. You keep within the Stag Lodge at Buffalo Hint, and it’ll be totally stocked with Eagle Uncommon. You get a spherical of golf at Keene Hint, which is a PGA Tour venue, and a non-public distillery tour. Entries will be accepted till 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on June 20. I can’t wait to see who wins this factor, it’s an unimaginable giveaway.
What do you search for in a whiskey?
I like a rye, however I’ve been extra into wheated bourbons as of late. A bit of bit of a better alcohol content material: I’d say 100 to 115 proof can be my supreme vary. I just like the complexity of the completely different flavors, and it’s enjoyable to do tastings with different individuals who recognize that. My brother obtained me into the bourbon craze, and now I’ve obtained an unimaginable assortment.
So far as ingesting it, I prefer it neat. When it’s heat exterior, I prefer it on the rocks, perhaps with the occasional mixer. If I’m ingesting one thing just like the Eagle Uncommon 17, I’d simply put it in a glass and luxuriate in. I wish to have two or three completely different pours an evening, simply one-ounce pours to provide myself some completely different taste profiles.
You’ve in all probability sat round in clubhouses and eating places together with your fellow touring professionals. What do they drink?
I believe the older era was extra into spirits—combined cocktails, vodka or bourbon or whiskey or no matter it could be. The youthful era, my age into the 50-year-old-range, I believe it’s extra wine. I used to be huge into wine for a pair years, together with different tour professionals. Splitting a bottle of wine at dinner, that type of factor.
However the youngest era, they don’t partake within the spirits as a lot. I believe they’re extra centered on golf on a regular basis. That’s not how I got here up within the recreation. I believe it’s important to have slightly little bit of enjoyable. I all the time inform the blokes on the pro-ams, “In case you can’t come out right here and have slightly little bit of enjoyable, then don’t do it.”
Exit and have enjoyable together with your fellow tour professionals, break up a couple of glasses of bourbon or a couple of glasses of wine, shoot the shit, and luxuriate in what we’ve all been doing. It’s a must to take pleasure in it and take advantage of it.
In case you may spend an hour sipping bourbon with one tour professional, who would you choose?
I’d say my buddy Pat Perez. I’ve gotten him into it—I believe he’s been bit by the bourbon bug.
This interview has been edited for size and readability.
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