One day Kevin Hall would like to win the U.S. Open.
He’ll raise his arms in triumph and smile to all the fans standing and applauding him loudly.
Only he won’t hear a single word.
That’s because Hall – a senior at Ohio State who helped lead the Buckeyes to a third-place finish at this weekend’s Northern Intercollegiate at the Michigan Golf Course – is deaf.
At age two, Hall was hit with a bout of meningitis. He beat the disease, but lost his hearing.
That didn’t stop Hall. It didn’t stop him from becoming both the first black and first deaf golfer to play for Ohio State. It doesn’t stop him from being a role model to many either.
“I’d like to be a role model to both minorities and those with hearing problems because I like to think that what I do means something,” Hall said after completing the tournament with rounds of 76-70-78 – 224. He finished in a tie for 33rd individually.
Hall’s right about one thing: What he’s done as a role model has meant something to people.
What he’s done on the golf course has not gone unnoticed either.
Hall, originally from Cincinnati, had offers from virtually all the schools that he was interested in coming out of St. Rita School for the Deaf, and settled on Ohio State because he and his family felt that it had the best combination of golf and disability services.
“We wanted Kevin to go to a school where a disability program was in place,” said his father, Percy Hall, who followed his son all weekend and also serves as his sign language translator during interviews. “We looked at a lot of schools, but we felt Ohio State was the best at what Kevin needed.”
He’s one of just four black golfers playing at the Division I-A level, and he’s the only deaf golfer.
Being deaf certainly hasn’t hindered Hall’s success on the golf course. In just the past year, Hall shot even par at the Dayton Open, an event on the Nationwide Tour (a circuit for golfers that’s just below the PGA Tour) and he won the Cincinnati Metropolitan by playing seven rounds in 23-under par.
But what makes Hall so special is his effect on others who share his disability.
“I remember at a tournament last season, Kevin was playing with some of our guys and a couple gentlemen with hearing disabilities came down just to watch him,” said Michigan coach Andrew Sapp. “I think that shows just how inspirational his story is. He’s a great role model to a lot of people. To overcome the adversity that he has just shows what kind of person he is.”
Hall makes numerous appearances a year to high schools around Ohio and even played a round of golf with a deaf high-school golfer who just requested the opportunity to someday meet him.
Hall doesn’t believe his disability hampers his play. In fact, he says sometimes not hearing anything helps him focus on the golf course.
“He can’t hear people talking or horns honking as cars go by, and that’s an advantage out on the course,” said Ohio State coach Jim Brown. “It’s been such a treat coaching him. He’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever been associated with.”
When he’s on the course, Hall has to play golf completely by feel. Since he can’t hear the club hit the ball, he has to rely totally on how the club feels in his hands on impact.
“Sometimes Kevin will hit the ball and turn to me to ask me how it sounded,” said Percy. “It’s just one of those things he overcomes. He’s a fighter.”
Hall’s been a fighter his whole life. Born a month early at only a little over three pounds, Hall fought as a baby just to survive.
Then, after Hall came down with meningitis, the doctors had no option but to give him medication that would burn the nerve fibers in his ears and force him to lose hearing in both ears.
It was the only way to save his life.
“I have always told him that your life is how you react to the situation you’re given,” said Percy.
No one, however, not even Percy, would ever have dreamed that when Kevin was a child, he would turn into a college athlete.
“I never thought he’d play a sport in college,” said Percy. “We didn’t know anyone that was deaf. It was all new to us. We just told him that the sky was the limit.”
Kevin’s taken his father’s comments literally. After he graduates next fall, Hall says he will probably give it a go at playing professionally.
“Yeah, I’d like to try to play professionally,” said Hall, laughing. “But after today’s round (a 78), I don’t know anymore.”
Even though Hall and his Buckeyes didn’t win this weekend’s Northern Intercollegiate, nobody will ever tell him he’s not a winner.
“I’m the same as everybody else,” says Hall with a smile. “Except I just can’t hear.”