You hear Jason Kokrak pull into the players’ lot at Quail Hollow Club before you see him. Does he drive a Mercedes courtesy car like most of his fellow players? He does not. Kokrak drives a discourtesy car.
There are advantages to living in the city in which a PGA Tour event is held, and one of them is that you get to make the approximately 6-mile drive from your house to the golf course in your own car.
Kokrak drives a 1969 Camaro SS, black with a thick white stripe on each side of the hood, sleek and low to the ground. It’s discourteous because all cars, even courtesy cars, must bow before it.
“I always wanted an old school muscle car. Finally got one,” says Kokrak. “It’s one of those cars that you drive around town and everybody looks at you, everybody gives you the thumbs up.”
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Kokrak, 29, is from Warren, Ohio. He played collegiately at Xavier in Cincinnati, moved after school to Bradenton, Fla., and played the eGolf Professional Tour. Tired of the 7-10 hour drives many tour events entailed, he moved to centrally located Charlotte.
He’s played on the PGA Tour since 2012. This is his best season with two top-10 finishes and seven in the top 25. He chose to stay.
“I love the city,” says Kokrak. “The food’s great, the airport is fantastic, just one of those places everybody on the tour loves. It’s a big city but has kind of a small-town feel.”
Where do you eat?
“Ooph,” he says. “Del Frisco’s is one of my favorite steakhouses, Cabo Fish Taco, Midwood Smokehouse, I like Mac’s Speed Shop and the wings at Moosehead (Grill). Those are my staples.”
Red meat does not offend you.
“Oh, no,” he says.
If you encounter Kokrak at the Wells Fargo Championship this week, here’s what you’ll see. He’s big. He hits the ball far. On holes on which other players might use a driver, he’ll pull out an iron. With the power and club speed he generates, he’ll often hold back rather than let go for fear of where the ball might go.
“I’m 6-4, 235, just a big guy, country strong,” says Kokrak. “I developed late in life so I learned the short game first.”
You developed as a golfer late in life?
“No, I started early,” he says. “I got tall very late in life. I grew like 8 inches in 10 months my junior year of high school. After that I started hitting it farther and kept hitting it farther and farther.”
That power has enhanced the Humane Society of Charlotte. Kokrak, who along with his fiancée, Stephanie, has a rescue named Licorice, and he has started a Drives Fore Lives initiative. He donates $100 for every Tour drive he hits more than 300 yards. Going into the Wells Fargo, he’s hit 118 this season.
When Kokrak isn’t saving dogs, hitting drives, eating red meat and driving an SS, he likes to shoot pool. He was a member of the legendary, and recently closed, Dilworth Billiards for about five years.
“He can play,” says Eric Sprouse, the owner. “He knows angles, he has touch. There are a lot of similarities between pool and golf. We call golf pasture pool.”
There’s the white ball on the green surface. There’s also this.
“If you can putt you can play pool and if you can play pool you can putt,” says Kokrak. “Because you understand how it needs to roll, and roll into the hole or pocket. In pool it’s just millimeters whether you make it or not. It’s one of those games I’ve always liked and I’ve gotten pretty good over the years, and I continue to get better and better at golf as well.”
On Tuesday, Kokrak steps to the first hole for his first drive and plans to hit a 2-iron. A kid standing behind the tee asks him to hit a driver. So Kokrak hits a driver.
Although the ball takes off, you can tell he’s holding back. He probably worries about hitting his car.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen