Heavy Heart

‘I've never cried so much in the past month’: Why Kevin Na was so emotional after winning the QBE Shootout

December 12, 2021

Cliff Hawkins

When Kevin Na gets on a heater with his putter, he’s a sight to behold. The 38-year-old PGA Tour veteran turns into a dancing, prancing madman whose confidence level can be measured in direct proportion to the speed with which he chases after his ball as it’s tracking to the hole.

Suffice it to say, Na was in his walk-in glory on Sunday at the QBE Shootout. Playing alongside good friend and fellow Las Vegas resident Jason Kokrak, the five-time PGA Tour winner got on a roll with his flat stick that almost single-handedly lifted his team to the title at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla.

Na and Kokrak started the day three shots back of Jason Day and Marc Leishman and were stuck at even par for the round through five holes playing the best-ball format. On the sixth hole, however, Na got a birdie putt to fall from about eight feet, and then he made a 15-footer for birdie on the seventh and a six-footer on the eighth. And if you weren’t convinced Na was starting to feel it, just watch the putt on No. 8:

Heck, Na nearly picked up the ball before it fell in the cup.

On the ninth hole, Na missed the green and so it looked like the birdie run was about to end. Except it wasn’t as he did this with his wedge:

It would have been particularly sausy had Na walked in the chip. Regardless, keeping his birdie streak alive meant that as Na turned to the back nine, his confidence was in overdrive.

And it continued over the next three holes as Na made three more birdies on his own ball to make it seven straight (the six-footer on the 10th hole was another in which he almost grabbed the ball before it fell in the hole). He was so hot even these putts were falling:

At that point, Kokrak couldn’t help but feed off Na’s vibe, as his putter heated up too with birdies on the four of his last five holes. The pair, who share the same swing coach (Drew Steckel) birdied 12 of their last 13 holes to shoot a 12-under 60 and pull off the third biggest comeback win in the 33-year history of the event.

In his post-round interview, Na was initially all smiles, joking about Kokrak about taking his time before helping out the team. “On the back nine … I said, ‘Hey, when are you going to show up?’ He said, ‘I'll be there when you really need me,’ and he really showed up when I needed him.”

But before long, Na was fighting back tears as he talked about how emotional the last month had unfortunately been for him.

“I lost two good friends of mine in the past month,” Na said of the passing of Kenny Lee, a friend from Las Vegas, and Dustin Smith, a childhood friend from growing up in California who caddied for Na in amateur and pro events. “He died of a heart attack and it really hit me. … I mean I’ve never cried so much in the past month.”

There’s more of his tearful interview here: