Deaf Sports Stars14th February 2015

Golfing Deaf Professional Kevin Hall Aims Higher

A seasoned golf Pro, Kevin Hall is still hoping to be the first deaf competitor on the PGA Tour

by Sarah Lawrence

Lots of deaf people play sport. Throughout history, there have been some outstanding personal and team achievements, but very few Deaf people excel in the mainstream, and even fewer can claim to be a successful professional sports star. American Kevin Hall not only competes as a professional golfing sports star, he also happens to be one of the nicest guys on the planet, a true gent!

Now 32 years old, Kevin was born and brought up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born hearing, he was taken ill with meningitis aged two, and whilst doctors were able to save his life, the illness left him profoundly Deaf. A keen bowler when young, Kevin was also a decent baseball pitcher, but it was golf that captured his interest when young, and he has been pursuing golfing excellence ever since.

“One of my coaches in the junior bowling league asked me if I wanted to learn how to play golf,” explained Kevin. “So on the first day of my lesson, I went straight to the driving range and picked up the first club I saw which was a driver. I teed the ball up, looked at a few golfers hitting balls across from me and tried to copy what I saw. The result was a very nice draw, about 125 yards down the middle and I was hooked. This happened when I was nine years old.”

Going to St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, Kevin’s golfing talent saw him become the first student from the St. Rita School to play for a mainstream school. Representing Winton Woods High School for four years, Kevin recalls a funny moment when he was playing in a competition against other school teams. “I was a freshman in high school. I went up against one of the best players. About 4 hours into the round, he said something to me and I didn't quite catch it so I said, "Sorry, I'm deaf." He gave me an incredulous look and said, "Huh? You're deaf? I didn't know that." Four hours together and he had no idea he was playing with a deaf golfer! It took me a while to stop laughing.”

Graduating from the St. Rita School, Kevin went to Ohio State University to study journalism, graduating with his degree in 2005. Able to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) and orally, Kevin recalls having little problem with communication whilst at school, but facing the usual difficulties when outside that environment. Taught ‘sign’ by his dad to start off with, ASL was used extensively at St. Rita, but he also undertook 10 years of speech therapy to develop his voice.

Being an accomplished bowler and baseball pitcher, I had to ask Kevin, why golf stole his heart. “I loved everything about the sport,” he said with great commitment. “The challenges of it, being able to be outside and the "life lessons" that golf teaches such as patience, strategy and making good decisions.” Facing no barriers to entry and participation, Kevin turned professional when he graduated from University, and he has been playing professional golf on different American tours since.

Concentrating entirely on his own golf, Kevin does not do any other work other than the occasional golf lesson and some volunteering. I asked him for his greatest achievement and he told me that winning the Big Ten Championship by 11 shots in 2004 at the University of Michigan course on Mother’s Day, was one of the best moments of his life.

Competing in one the most popular sports in the United States, standing out in the crowd can be difficult, but Kevin’s ambitions remain to play on one of the main golfing tours, with every golf competition used to gain experience and to learn more about himself. Whilst Kevin still has burning ambitions, he has been able to play as a professional since 2004. For other budding deaf golfers, Kevin offers some simple advice. “Enjoy the game as much as you can and be a student of the game. Learn everything there is to learn about it and give everything you have got. Take it one step at a time and let your talents develop over time.” Wise words indeed!

Whilst Kevin has not been stopped from pursuing his career through his deafness, he does recognise that achievement is that little bit more difficult. However, he is very philosophical around his life, brushing off some of the difficulties he has faced, “It is what it is,” Kevin said. “I wouldn't trade what has happened in my career for anything else. I've been blessed with a lot of things.”

An avid reader, Kevin told me that he enjoys reading about Deaf people who have achieved success in the SLFirst Magazine. “I like to see deaf people not letting anything get in the way of their dreams and actually accomplishing their goals,” Kevin told me. Aspirational for deaf youngsters, Kevin would like to see more deaf people doing well in the mainstream. “I would like to see deaf people aim high and really get after it. They have so much potential to be the best they can be in life. Granted, the path can be very rocky and it will be hard to get there but nothing in life is easy. There is so much we can accomplish if we put our mind to it.”

Inducted into the St. Rita School for the Deaf Hall of Fame on the 6th February, 2015, Kevin is an inspiration to deaf children all over the world. He demonstrates that 'Deaf Can Do' and we wish him well in taking his playing career further.  If you would like to see how Kevin gets on in his pursuit for a place on one of the bigger tours, you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Stars

14th February 2015