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

Robert S. Hays

Jason Kokrak has performed on the PGA Tour, on and off, considering that 2012. But until all over a year in the past, even a serious golfing fan could be forgiven for not understanding who he was. Kokrak spent most of his profession very well outside the prime 100 in the Official World Golfing Ranking––good enough to be a person of the finest gamers in the world, surely, but a long way from the sport’s major tier. He’d gained a few occasions on the sport’s lower-amount excursions but experienced by no means lifted a trophy on the PGA Tour.



All of that has improved in new months. The 36-year-aged Ohioan received his to start with PGA Tour occasion last Oct, the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, and adopted it up by profitable the Charles Schwab Obstacle in Texas at the conclude of May well. He has been 1 of the very best gamers in the globe because golf resumed immediately after its pandemic pause, and he’s risen all the way to No. 24 in the worldwide rankings. Final 7 days, we caught up with Kokrak in the course of a press tour for his Father’s Day sweepstakes with Eagle Uncommon Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Distillery. We talked about improving with age, how he figured out placing, what pro golfers like to drink, and more.

Men’s Journal: Not a large amount of golfers develop into top-25 gamers in their mid-30s. How did you obtain this stage of participate in afterwards in your occupation?

Jason Kokrak: Very well, I’ve generally been a slow learner at every amount of the activity. At the beginning of substantial school I was respectable, and then by senior calendar year I was pretty fantastic, successful tournaments really often. Exact factor in college or university: I’d gained a couple occasions, but almost nothing also insane. When I turned pro, I was Alright at initially. I think I lacked self-confidence. Then I begun winning an function here, an event there, and when I received that experience of a tiny bit of self confidence and belonging, I took it to a new stage. At the time I figure it out and learn how to get, the floodgates open, and I have a tendency to perform a large amount improved when I truly feel a lot more comfortable.

At the pro level, all these guys are superior ball-strikers. All these men are very good putters, and very good pitchers of the golfing ball. In the video game of golfing, a large chunk of actively playing perfectly is self confidence.

Did you at any time take into account quitting qualified golf?

Yeah, totally. My spouse and a few other people know this really effectively. We were being living in Charlotte. I was starting up to go to task interviews and glance down the road of acquiring a serious career as a substitute of taking part in golfing for a residing. I just obtained discouraged following a few years on the mini-excursions of not enjoying fantastic but not actively playing badly, and I didn’t want to place the economic load on myself with a personal loan or inquiring other people today to back again me. I was down to my previous match, my past entry rate, rent—everything was culminating with this last celebration.

I went to a job interview I cannot even try to remember who it was with. Halfway by way of the job interview, I looked up and claimed, “Sir, I hate to tell 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 required to commence grinding to get to where by I’m at today. I did not get that upcoming event, but I performed incredibly properly. I manufactured some money. I was like, “This is what I want to do. I just want to do the job harder.”

Golfing is a video game that offers you nothing at all. You have to do the job for anything you have in this activity. That is what I’ve done over the previous pair several years. Ever because the middle of college, I took a person side of the match each individual yr and stated, “All right, I need to take this to the following amount or get a small greater at this.”

If you’re actively playing well and not profitable, you’re nevertheless participating in perfectly. The wins will come. If you’d instructed me I’d have a 10-calendar year profession with out a gain, I would’ve explained, “sign me up.” I’m just content to get in touch with myself a two-time winner now.

Jason Kokrak
Michael Ainsworth/AP / Shutterstock

Considering that Phil Mickelson gained the PGA Championship, there’s been a great deal of discussion about what it requires for more mature players to maintain up with these athletic 20-somethings who are driving the hell out of the ball off the tee. What is your teaching regimen? How have you managed to dangle with that group?

I feel it helps lifting my incredibly huge 2- and 4-year-old small children up and down all day and holding them. And executing lawn do the job. The week before the PGA Championship, I assisted my cousin unfold some mulch. I have hardly ever been one particular to shy absent from a minimal bit of guide labor I utilized to lower my personal grass.

I like to perform out, but I don’t like the way my game feels when I do do the job out. I’m sore. My limited activity struggles with it. I do check out to consume a very little bit far better, as of the previous year or two. Very last calendar year I dropped about 30 kilos. I’ve put a handful of pounds back on, but ingesting more healthy and drinking plenty of h2o goes a very long way towards enjoying perfectly.

Everybody’s a tiny little bit different. Phil’s been ingesting his espresso and carrying out his thing, and that appears to be to be operating for him. Tiger utilized to invest all working day at the golf system, doing work out in the morning, functioning out in the afternoon. It was just 24/7 golfing. If I did that, I’d get burned out quite, incredibly swiftly. You find out what will work for you and how your match feels the best. I’d really like to have a 6 pack and glance like a product, but I’m just not that kind of person.

Lots of of us go our whole life without having figuring out how to putt. Likely by strokes obtained studies, you are now a single of the greatest putters in the planet this calendar year. How’d you do it? Was it just a make a difference of shifting to a more time putter, or have you uncovered a secret to this incredibly complicated portion of golf?

I usually say when my friends are having difficulties with putting: “Well, you will need a D-Rob.” I have received 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 negative environmentally friendly reader, but there are numerous intricacies of environmentally friendly-looking through: Bermuda greens as opposed to bent grass, and bent as opposed to poe. There’s a lot that goes into it. I wouldn’t say that I have located the secret to putting, but I’ve observed a way that will work for me. I have normally experienced a genuinely good stroke, it just felt a little inconsistent. I was extra of a streaky putter prior to. I consider just the general apply and having a person like David Robinson trying to keep an eye on alignment, path, even grip pressure. He can convey to when my grip is far too agency.

When we lengthened the putter to 36, I was equipped to get both of those of my palms absolutely on the putter grip. That seemed to give me much more stability in my stroke. I see that a whole lot, but there is no 1 suitable way to putt. Tiger Woods was an unbelievable putter, but most people today do not know he opens the putter and closes the putter extra than most other good putters in the sport. There are just so numerous items that go into putting. You have gotta find what functions for you, what you’re at ease with, and also what you like to appear down at. If you glance down at a putter and you are not comfortable seeking at it, it’s not gonna get the job done.

You’re working with Eagle Rare Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Distillery on a sweepstakes for Father’s Working day weekend. What is on give?

It’s been an incredible partnership. I in particular like the Eagle Scarce ethos of reaching greater it is an outstanding model for me to be a lover with.

With the U.S. Open coming up, as perfectly as Father’s Working day, we’re accomplishing a giveaway: an all-expenses paid excursion for two days. You stay in the Stag Lodge at Buffalo Trace, and it’ll be totally stocked with Eagle Scarce. You get a spherical of golf at Keene Trace, which is a PGA Tour location, and a non-public distillery tour. Entries will be acknowledged until eventually 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on June 20. I simply cannot hold out to see who wins this thing, it is an incredible giveaway.

What do you appear for in a whiskey?

I like a rye, but I’ve been additional into wheated bourbons as of late. A very little little bit of a higher alcohol content material: I would say 100 to 115 evidence would be my excellent assortment. I like the complexity of the different flavors, and it’s enjoyable to do tastings with other persons who value that. My brother acquired me into the bourbon trend, and now I’ve bought an extraordinary assortment.

As far as consuming it, I like it neat. When it’s warm exterior, I like it on the rocks, probably with the occasional mixer. If I’m ingesting a little something like the Eagle Unusual 17, I’d just place it in a glass and take pleasure in. I like to have two or three distinct pours a night time, just 1-ounce pours to give myself some distinct flavor profiles.

You’ve likely sat all over in clubhouses and places to eat with your fellow touring pros. What do they consume?

I consider the older era was more into spirits—mixed cocktails, vodka or bourbon or whiskey or what ever it might be. The young technology, my age into the 50-yr-outdated-variety, I believe it is extra wine. I was significant into wine for a couple a long time, together with other tour execs. Splitting a bottle of wine at meal, that variety of detail.

But the youngest era, they do not partake in the spirits as much. I consider they’re a lot more concentrated on golfing all the time. That’s not how I arrived up in the sport. I consider you have to have a minimal bit of pleasurable. I always convey to the guys at the professional-ams, “If you simply cannot appear out right here and have a tiny little bit of enjoyable, then really don’t do it.”

Go out and have fun with your fellow tour pros, split a couple of eyeglasses of bourbon or a several eyeglasses of wine, shoot the shit, and appreciate what we have all been carrying out. You have to love it and make the most of it.

If you could commit an hour sipping bourbon with just one tour professional, who would you decide on?

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

This job interview has been edited for duration and clarity.

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