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Charlotte’s Jason Kokrak puts driving skills on display at Quail Hollow

By Ron Green Sr.
Ron Green Sr.
Ron Green Sr. is a retired Observer columnist.

Jason Kokrak lives about 10 minutes away from the Quail Hollow Club, for him about a drive and a 5-iron.

Fine, that’s an exaggeration, but have you seen Kokrak hit a golf ball? Somebody said he hits it with controlled rage. He’s long, cross-country long, or to paraphrase the late player and commentator Dave Marr, a lot of us don’t go that far on vacation.

Kokrak is putting his power to good use this week in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail, posting scores of 68-70 on a squishy course and greens with a bad complexion. He heads into the weekend inside the top ten and thinking about getting his first PGA Tour win.

Kokrak drove his ball 333 yards on the tenth hole Friday, 316 on the seventh, 311 on the 16th, 307 on the fourth and bunted a few more in the 280s and 290’s. Coming into the Wells Fargo Championship, he was averaging 301.5, sixth on the PGA Tour and – for more perspective – a smidge longer than, ahem, Bubba Watson and his pink driver.

Kokrak, 28 and single, is a member of the growing community of PGA Tour players living here now. He moved here about five years ago to cut down on travel while he was playing a lot of developmental tour events in this area.

“(Quail Hollow) is right down the street from my house,” he said. “I can sleep in my own bed, which is the greatest thing for me this week. I’ve got a lot of family and friends that are coming into town. It’s nice, it’s relaxing and I get to have dinner at some of my favorite restaurants, be home and hang out with my dogs and my girlfriend.”

And think about winning.

“I’ve been in this (contending) position before,” he said. “I have the game to win out here if I keep my head on straight and continue to improve. I haven’t won but I think I will, this week or sometime later.”

He has the genes. Kokrak’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all excellent players. Young Jason loved the game, practiced putting into tin cups on the carpet at home and hit chip shots between a couch and some stairs at his grandmother’s house. But he gave no hint that he would be a bomber on the Tour someday.

When he entered high school, he stood only 5-foot-3 and couldn’t hit it out of his shadow. But a growth spurt and some driving lessons transformed him into a high school and college star and winner of a couple of Nationwide Tour events.

And now a contender in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Ron Green Sr. is a retired Observer sports columnist.
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