March 22, 2023

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Jason Kokrak on Whiskey, Yard Work, and How He Almost Quit Golf

9 min read

Jason Kokrak has performed on the PGA Tour, on and off, since 2012. But right up until all-around a yr ago, even a severe golfing fan could be forgiven for not realizing who he was. Kokrak expended most of his occupation very well outdoors the best 100 in the Official Environment Golfing Ranking––good adequate to be one particular of the most effective players in the entire world, definitely, but a prolonged way from the sport’s top tier. He’d won a couple of occasions on the sport’s decrease-stage excursions but had in no way lifted a trophy on the PGA Tour.



All of that has transformed in latest months. The 36-calendar year-old Ohioan gained his initial PGA Tour occasion final October, the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, and followed it up by winning the Charles Schwab Obstacle in Texas at the stop of May possibly. He has been a person of the finest gamers in the globe since golf resumed immediately after its pandemic pause, and he’s risen all the way to No. 24 in the global rankings. Last 7 days, we caught up with Kokrak throughout a push tour for his Father’s Day sweepstakes with Eagle Exceptional Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Distillery. We talked about bettering with age, how he figured out putting, what professional golfers like to drink, and additional.

Men’s Journal: Not a ton of golfers come to be best-25 gamers in their mid-30s. How did you discover this stage of enjoy later in your job?

Jason Kokrak: Perfectly, I have usually been a slow learner at each and every stage of the video game. At the starting of superior school I was respectable, and then by senior calendar year I was really great, profitable tournaments very routinely. Same matter in college: I’d received a few instances, but almost nothing much too crazy. When I turned pro, I was Ok at initially. I feel I lacked self confidence. Then I began winning an celebration below, an celebration there, and when I got that feeling of a very little bit of assurance and belonging, I took it to a new amount. After I determine it out and understand how to get, the floodgates open up, and I tend to engage in a ton improved when I come to feel additional comfy.

At the pro stage, all these guys are superior ball-strikers. All these fellas are fantastic putters, and superior pitchers of the golf ball. In the match of golfing, a big chunk of playing very well is self-assurance.

Did you at any time think about quitting skilled golf?

Yeah, definitely. My spouse and a few other men and women know this extremely nicely. We were living in Charlotte. I was beginning to go to position interviews and glimpse down the street of obtaining a true job instead of taking part in golf for a living. I just obtained discouraged following a couple a long time on the mini-excursions of not taking part in wonderful but not actively playing poorly, and I did not want to put the fiscal stress on myself with a loan or asking other individuals to back me. I was down to my last match, my previous entry charge, rent—everything was culminating with this previous event.

I went to a work interview I simply cannot even try to remember who it was with. Midway via the job interview, I appeared up and reported, “Sir, I detest to explain to you this, but this just is not for me. I’m not gonna do this.” I went property, and that was the kick in the butt I desired to start out grinding to get to in which I’m at nowadays. I didn’t earn that subsequent event, but I played quite perfectly. I designed some cash. I was like, “This is what I require to do. I just have to have to get the job done more challenging.”

Golf is a sport that offers you very little. You have to function for everything you have in this video game. Which is what I have accomplished more than the past few decades. At any time because the middle of faculty, I took one particular facet of the activity each and every year and claimed, “All right, I need to take this to the subsequent degree or get a small superior at this.”

If you are enjoying very well and not successful, you are even now actively playing well. The wins will occur. If you’d informed me I’d have a 10-12 months career without a acquire, I would’ve claimed, “sign me up.” I’m just joyful to simply call myself a two-time winner now.

Jason Kokrak
Michael Ainsworth/AP / Shutterstock

Given that Phil Mickelson gained the PGA Championship, there is been a good deal of dialogue about what it will take for more mature gamers to continue to keep up with these athletic 20-somethings who are driving the hell out of the ball off the tee. What is your teaching routine? How have you managed to cling with that team?

I believe it assists lifting my incredibly substantial 2- and 4-year-old small children up and down all working day and holding them. And undertaking property get the job done. The 7 days prior to the PGA Championship, I helped my cousin unfold some mulch. I have never ever been one to shy away from a minor little bit of guide labor I made use of to lower my very own grass.

I like to work out, but I do not like the way my match feels when I do work out. I’m sore. My quick recreation struggles with it. I do attempt to take in a minimal bit much better, as of the past yr or two. Past calendar year I dropped about 30 lbs .. I have put a several lbs again on, but taking in healthier and drinking enough h2o goes a prolonged way toward enjoying nicely.

Everybody’s a minor little bit various. Phil’s been consuming his espresso and carrying out his point, and that would seem to be performing for him. Tiger used to shell out all working day at the golf class, doing work out in the morning, operating out in the afternoon. It was just 24/7 golfing. If I did that, I’d get burned out quite, pretty immediately. You understand what works for you and how your game feels the very best. I’d adore to have a six pack and appear like a product, but I’m just not that form of male.

Several of us go our total lives with out figuring out how to putt. Likely by strokes acquired stats, you are now just one of the most effective putters in the environment this year. How’d you do it? Was it just a make any difference of transferring to a longer putter, or have you uncovered a top secret to this extremely tricky part of golf?

I normally say when my peers are struggling with putting: “Well, you have to have a D-Rob.” I’ve bought a D-Rob, and he reads the greens. [Note: Kokrak’s caddy is David Robinson, a former pro himself.] I really do not contemplate myself a bad eco-friendly reader, but there are several intricacies of inexperienced-reading: Bermuda greens as opposed to bent grass, and bent as opposed to poe. There’s a large amount that goes into it. I would not say that I’ve located the magic formula to placing, but I have found a way that will work for me. I’ve often experienced a definitely fantastic stroke, it just felt a tiny inconsistent. I was much more of a streaky putter ahead of. I assume just the all round follow and acquiring a male like David Robinson trying to keep an eye on alignment, route, even grip pressure. He can tell when my grip is much too agency.

When we lengthened the putter to 36, I was able to get equally of my palms entirely on the putter grip. That appeared to give me more balance in my stroke. I see that a large amount, but there’s no 1 appropriate way to putt. Tiger Woods was an unbelievable putter, but most folks don’t know he opens the putter and closes the putter much more than most other wonderful putters in the video game. There are just so quite a few factors that go into placing. You’ve gotta locate what will work for you, what you are cozy with, and also what you like to appear down at. If you appear down at a putter and you’re not relaxed looking at it, it is not gonna operate.

You are operating with Eagle Uncommon Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Distillery on a sweepstakes for Father’s Day weekend. What’s on offer?

It is been an remarkable partnership. I in particular like the Eagle Scarce ethos of achieving larger it’s an unbelievable model for me to be a companion with.

With the U.S. Open coming up, as effectively as Father’s Day, we’re undertaking a giveaway: an all-expenditures compensated vacation for two times. You stay in the Stag Lodge at Buffalo Trace, and it’ll be entirely stocked with Eagle Unusual. You get a spherical of golfing at Keene Trace, which is a PGA Tour location, and a non-public distillery tour. Entries will be accepted right until 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on June 20. I can not wait around to see who wins this factor, it’s an incredible giveaway.

What do you glance for in a whiskey?

I like a rye, but I have been much more into wheated bourbons as of late. A little little bit of a increased liquor material: I would say 100 to 115 evidence would be my excellent selection. I like the complexity of the diverse flavors, and it’s entertaining to do tastings with other people today who value that. My brother obtained me into the bourbon trend, and now I’ve got an outstanding collection.

As much as drinking it, I like it neat. When it is heat outside the house, I like it on the rocks, possibly with the occasional mixer. If I’m consuming a thing like the Eagle Uncommon 17, I’d just place it in a glass and get pleasure from. I like to have two or a few unique pours a night, just just one-ounce pours to give myself some diverse taste profiles.

You have most likely sat around in clubhouses and places to eat with your fellow touring execs. What do they drink?

I think the more mature technology was more into spirits—mixed cocktails, vodka or bourbon or whiskey or whatever it may possibly be. The younger generation, my age into the 50-calendar year-outdated-range, I consider it is additional wine. I was large into wine for a couple a long time, together with other tour execs. Splitting a bottle of wine at dinner, that form of point.

But the youngest generation, they really do not partake in the spirits as considerably. I believe they are far more concentrated on golfing all the time. That is not how I came up in the match. I believe you have to have a very little little bit of pleasurable. I always tell the fellas at the professional-ams, “If you can’t come out here and have a minor little bit of exciting, then really do not do it.”

Go out and have fun with your fellow tour execs, split a several eyeglasses of bourbon or a handful of glasses of wine, shoot the shit, and appreciate what we’ve all been performing. You have to love it and make the most of it.

If you could spend an hour sipping bourbon with one particular tour pro, who would you decide?

I would say my buddy Pat Perez. I have gotten him into it—I assume he’s been bit by the bourbon bug.

This interview has been edited for size and clarity.

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