|Birthday:||May 22, 1985|
Jason Kokrak was raised in Warren and played high school golf at JFK High School in Warren where he twice led his team to the Ohio Boy's state championship as Division III medalist. He went on to play college golf at Xavier University in Cincinnati and graduated in 2007. During his college career, he won both the 2006 and 2007 Ohio Amateur titles. Kokrak turned professional after graduation.
During the 2007 U.S. Amateur, Kokrak led all players with a score of 137 during the 36 hole match play qualifier at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. That same year, he made an appearance in the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, when he successfully came through sectional and regional qualifying.
In 2011, he exploded onto the pro golf scene over the second half of the Nationwide Tour season — winning two events and nearly capturing the season-ending Tour Championship. It allowed him to finish 4th on the Nationwide money list, which earned him 2012 PGA Tour membership.
Fans soaking up the sun along the shores of Oahu took home plenty of memories Friday in the Sony Open, the least of which was Brian Stuard atop the leaderboard with this fourth straight round of 65 at Waialae.
Stuard finished the second round with a hybrid into 2 feet for eagle, giving him a one-shot lead over Marc Leishman of Australia and Hideto Tanihara of Japan.
The best stuff came later.
James Hahn, best known for his “Gangnam Style” moves after making birdie at the raucous 16th hole at the Phoenix Open last year, tried (and failed) for a chest-bump with his caddie after the rarest shot in golf — an albatross — when he holed out from 191 yards with a 6-iron on the par-5 ninth hole.
“That was a little spontaneous, but I forgot that — I’ve got to be politically correct, right? — but white men can’t jump,” said Hahn, a South Korean-born, Cal grad and funnyman on tour. “So I got a little air, he didn’t. But it was fun. I don’t think he knew I was going to chest-bump him. But that’s just what I felt like at the time.”
Warren JFK High graduate Jason Kokrak followed his first-round 66 with a 67 Friday and is in a five-way tie for fifth at 7-under 133, three shots behind Stuard.
The big attraction was having surf champion Kelly Slater in the gallery for the final hour, even though he was there to watch a caddie.
Fellow surfer Benji Weatherley is on the bag this week for Masters champion Adam Scott, and he had a blast in front of two dozen friends from the North Shore. But this golf is serious business, and Weatherley showed great confidence talking Scott out of a driver on the 18th hole.
“He’s really getting the hang of it,” Scott said.
Scott took over from there, getting a break on the last hole when his ball was in a partial divot. Scott was able to take a free drop away from the grandstand, and while his chip came out strong, it banged against the bottom of the flagstick and stopped an inch from the hole for a tap-in birdie and a 66.
Scott was only three shots behind. Weatherley was having a blast.
“It’s the most fun you could ever have,” he said. “I have no nerves because for one, he’s so good it’s embarrassing. Like every single shot is what you see on ‘Sports Center,’ especially that last one.”
He said this during an interview with the Golf Channel.
Meanwhile, another good tournament was shaping up in Hawaii.
Stuard was at 10-under 130. Those four straight rounds of 65 ordinarily might be good enough to win a tournament. Except that the first half of that streak happened on the weekend at Waialae last year. Even so, it was enough for him to be in the lead going into the weekend.
It was his seventh straight round in the 60s at Waialae dating to Stuard’s first trip here in 2010.
“I think it’s something to do with the greens,” Stuard said. “I feel comfortable on the greens. I feel like I read them pretty well and I’m able to make putts.”