When the PGA Tour media room staff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open asked me if I wanted an exclusive interview with Kevin Na, I jumped at the chance. When he finished an on-camera promotional piece with the PGA Tour — including a promotion for a Tour outlet in Eastern Europe — the staff guy introduced us and off we went.
Hi. Bill Rand. I write a daily golf mastery blog called EyeOnTheTour.com from the perspective of a former Monday qualifier on the Champions Tour.
And so what I do is watch what you guys do and write about it on a daily basis.
And I’ve always been a big fan of yours…
Ever since you did what you did, giving up you senior year in high school…
Thank you, I thought you were going to say since I was sixteen. [Laughing] A lot of people say that.
No, no, no, no. [Laughing]
Because a lot of people say that.
No. And winning in San Bernadino [on the Nationwide Tour] because that was one of the last years I was Monday qualifying trying to get into Newport Beach. So I knew where you were; I’d hit balls there…
Yeah, it was very cool. So back to your junior year in high school and you’re looking at this as a possiblity and your future.
What was it that gave you the confidence to just leap off a cliff?
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Obviously, I was pretty confident with where I was as a junior golfer. And as an amateur golfer I was winning some tournaments at the top junior level and I played a couple of professional events. A couple on the Asian Tour, one PGA Tour event. And obviously, I wasn’t quite up to the level.
But I figured if I get two to three years of experience playing — mini-tours, Nationwide hopefully [now the Buy.com Tour] and the Asian Tour — I figured I could develop my game and be good enough in a couple of years to play the PGA Tour. And when I first went to Q-School I wasn’t good enough, so I played overseas a couple of years and by the time I was twenty, I got on the Tour. Overall, I took it step-by-step and it worked out.
And you got through Q-School alright, right?
Year, the third time. I had a good Q-School run.
T17, something like that?
T21. I won First Stage by eight, I finished third in second stage and 21 in the final stage. I still remember it.
So then you get out on Tour, when is it clear that this is going to work for you?
You know, I never thought about the negative. I never thought about what if this doesn’t work? I just tried to improve myself as a player and try to keep getting better and set goals; set high goals. I never thought about what if I lose my card? Or what if golf doesn’t work out for me? I never really thought that way. I was more focused on trying to be successful.
Right. One of the things that you do when you find yourself in that situation is you compare yourself with the guys that are out there doing really well. So did you ever pay attention to that gap? Or were you just concentrating on your own game?
I tried to do the best that I can do, you know? Which might not be finishing top 30; maybe finishing 70th or 80th when I first got on Tour. So I set goals that I can reach, but it also made me work hard.
And what a great career you’ve had. All these year, 21 million dollars.
Lot of top 10s.
Lot of top 10s…
Unfortunately, only one win.
That’s the only thing that bothers me.
Well, when I think of you, I think of you as someone who is bold, jumped off a cliff, went for your dream and you turned out to be right. You’ve been out here all this time…
I think I’m hitting my prime now…
You’re a Tour pro’s Tour pro. I mean, so you’re not winning, you’re just…
I’m right there all the time.
…right there all the time.
So I’m hoping in the next five years — this is my goal — next five years, I want to win five times.
That’s my goal.
Well, yeah, you’ve spent long enough working at it.
Yeah. And if I have five in the next five, total of six, and someone said I had the chance to walk away from the game — I wouldn’t walk away from the game — but I would be content with what I’ve done.
I don’t think most people realize how hard it is to win out here.
It’s very difficult.
Yeah, I experienced that on the Champions Tour. I couldn’t even get through Mondays.
Yeah, but the bottom line is you just need to keep improving.
Yeah, exactly. So what are you working on right now?
A number of things. Obviously my swing. Same swing thought. Working on the right arm and the right hip…
Going to the target?
Trying to keep the right elbow close to the body going through, keeping it little bit closer on my body more.
I just wrote about that. I was watching Billy Horschel on the range yesterday and that was the exact same thing he was working on.
The right arm is the key for, I think, good ball striking.
Great. Thanks so much for your time.
What may not have come through in recounting our conversation was just how bright — luminous and intelligence — and cheerful and engaged he was the whole time. His smile never left his face and he was eager for each new question. The quintessential good interview.