Play Jason Kokrac on PGA Tour, intermittently, since 2012. But until nearly a year ago, even serious golf A fan can be forgiven for not knowing who he is. Kokrac has spent most of his career outside the list of the world’s top 100 players Official world golf rating– – Good enough to be one of the best players in the world, sure, but far from top class in the sport. He has won multiple times on the lower-level sports tours but never raised a trophy on the PGA Tour.
All that has changed in recent months. The 36-year-old Ohioan won his first PGA Tour event last October, the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, and followed that up by winning the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas at the end of May. He’s been one of the best players in the world since golf resumed after its pandemic halt, and he’s risen all the way to No. 24 in the world rankings. Last week, we caught up with Kokrak during his press tour Father’s Day Lottery With a rare Eagle Trace Distillery of Bourbon and Buffalo. We talked about getting better as he got older, how he figured out his situation, what pro golfers like to drink, and more.
men’s magazineNot many golfers become top 25 golfers in their mid-30s. How did you find this level of play later in your career?
Jason Kokrak: Well, I have always been a slow learner at every level of the game. At the beginning of high school I was fit, and then I was good in my final year, winning tournaments regularly. Same thing in college: I won a few times, but nothing crazy. When I became a professional, I was good at first. I think I lack confidence. Then I started winning an event here, it happened there, and once I had a sense of some confidence and belonging, I took it to a new level. Once I figure that out and learn how to win, the doors open wide, and I tend to play better when I feel more comfortable.
At the professional level, all of these guys are good ball strikers. All of these guys are good putters, and good pitchers at the golf ball. In golf, confidence is a huge part of good play.
Have you ever thought about quitting professional golf?
absolutely yes. My wife and two other people know this very well. We used to live in Charlotte. I started going to job interviews and looking for a real job instead of playing golf for a living. I was frustrated after a few years in the mini-rounds of not playing great but not playing badly, and didn’t want to burden myself with a loan or ask others to back me up. I was about to take part in my last course, the last entry fee, the rent – it all culminated in this last event.
I went to a job interview. I can’t even remember who was with them. Halfway through the interview, I looked up and said, “Sir, I hate to tell you this, but it just isn’t right for me. I’m not going to do this.” I came home, and that was the kick in the ass I needed to start grinding to get to where I am today. I didn’t win the next tournament, but I played very well. I earned some cash. I was like, “This is what I need to do. I just need to work a little bit harder.”
Golf is a game that gives you nothing. You have to work for everything you have in this game. That’s what I’ve done for the past two years. Since mid-college, I’ve been using one aspect of the game every year and said, “Okay, I need to go to the next level or get a little better at this.”
If you play well and don’t win, you are still playing well. The victories will come. If you told me I was going to have a 10-year career without winning, I would have said, ‘Score me’. I’m just happy to call myself a twice winner now.
Since Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship, there’s been a lot of discussion about what it takes for older players to keep up with these 20-year-olds leading the hell off a tee. What is your training regimen? How did you manage to hold up with that group?
I think it helps lift my very big kids of 2-4 years old up and down all day and hold them. and do yard work. The week before the PGA Championship, I helped my cousin spread some mulch. I’ve never been one to shy away from a little manual labor; I used to cut my own lawn.
I like to play sports, but I don’t like the way my game feels when I do it Act work out. I’m sore. My short game is struggling with it. I’m trying to eat a little better, as of the last year or two. Last year, I lost about 30 pounds. I gained a few pounds back, but eating healthy food and drinking enough water goes a long way toward playing well.
Everyone is a little different. Phil was drinking his coffee and doing whatever he wanted, and that seemed to work in his favour. The tiger used to spend the whole day on the golf course, practicing in the morning, and working out in the afternoon. Golf was only 24/7. If I did, I would get exhausted very, very quickly. You learn what works for you and how you feel your game is the best. I’d like to have a six-pack and look like a model, but I’m not that kind of guy.
Many of us go our whole lives without knowing how to hit. Statistics obtained by strokes, you are now one of the best running rackets in the world this year. How did you do that? Was it just a move to a longer putter or did you discover a secret to this incredibly difficult part of golf?
I always say when my peers are struggling to put on: “Okay, you need a D-Rob.” I have a D-Rob, and he reads the greens. [Note: Kokrak’s caddy is David Robinson, a former pro himself.] I don’t consider myself a bad reader of green, but there are many intricacies of reading green: Bermuda green as opposed to bent grass, and bent unlike Poe. There is a lot that goes into it. I won’t say I found the secret of the situation, but I did find a way that works for me. I’ve always had a really good stroke, I just felt a bit inconsistent. I was more of a sweaty racket than before. I think it’s just general practice and having a guy like David Robinson monitor alignment, trajectory and even grip pressure. He can tell when my fist is too strong.
when we were Extends racket racket to 36I managed to get my hands full on the racket grip. This seems to give me more stability in the stroke. I see it a lot, but there is no one right way to strike. Tiger Woods was an incredible racket, but most people don’t know that it opens and closes the racket more than most of the other great rackets in the game. There are a lot of things that are put in place. You have to find what works for you, what you feel comfortable with, and also what you like to look at. If you look at a racket racket and don’t feel comfortable looking at it, it won’t work.
You’re working with Eagle Rare Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Distillery on a sweepstakes for Father’s Day this weekend. What is on offer?
It has been a wonderful partnership. I especially love the rare spirit of the eagle to reach higher; It’s a great brand for me to be a partner.
With the US Open approaching, as well as Father’s Day, we’re giving you a free gift: an all-expenses-paid trip for two days. You will be staying at the Stag Lodge in Buffalo Trace, which will be fully stocked with Eagle Rare. You can get a round of golf at Keene Trace, a venue for the PGA Tour, and a private distillery tour. Entries will be accepted As of 11:59 PM (EDT) on June 20. I can’t wait to see who will win this thing, it’s a great gift.
What do you look for in whiskey?
I love rye, but I’ve been more into fermented bourbon lately. Slightly higher alcohol content: I would say a guide of 100 to 115 would be the ideal range. I love the complexity of the different flavors, and it’s fun tasting other people who appreciate it. My brother made me crazy for bourbon, and now I have a great batch.
As much as I drink it, I like it in style. When it’s warm outside, I love it on the rocks, maybe with the occasional mixer. If I’m drinking something like Eagle Rare 17, I’ll put it in a glass and enjoy. I like to have two or three different types of fluid a night, just one ounce to give myself a few different flavours.
You’ve likely sat in clubs and restaurants with fellow tour professionals. What do they drink?
I think the older generation was more inclined to spirits – mixed cocktail, vodka or bourbon or whiskey or whatever. The younger generation, my age is in the 50-year range, I think it’s more wine. I was fond of wine for two years, along with other tour professionals. Splitting a bottle of wine at dinner, that kind of thing.
But the younger generation, they don’t share lives as much. I think they focus more on golf all the time. This is not how I came into the game. I think you should have a little fun. I always say to the guys in the pro, “If you can’t get out here and have a little fun, don’t do it.”
Go out and have fun with your fellow tour pros, split a few glasses of bourbon or a few glasses of wine, shoot shit, and enjoy what we were all doing. You have to enjoy it and make the most of it.
If you could spend an hour sipping bourbon with one tour pro, who would you choose?
I would say my friend Pat Perez. I pushed him into it – I think he was bitten by a bourbon bug.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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