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5 minute read

Journeys

kris ventura pga tour age 25 lives oslo, norway palm beach gardens, fla.

“I asked the doctors to postpone the surgery. They just laughed.” Journeys Play

Kris Ventura Playing Q school after an appendectomy

Iplayed for the european side in the Junior Ryder Cup in 2010. We lost to a team that included Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. After, we all went to Celtic Manor to watch the real Ryder Cup. I remember being in awe of the crowds, the thousands of people chanting. That was the day I said to myself, This is what I want to do. I’m going to do everything I can to play against these guys.

my dad is mexican and my mom is norwegian. They met when my mom studied in Mexico as a college exchange student. I was born in Puebla, which is a big city about two hours south of Mexico City. When I was 2 or 3 years old, the story goes, golf came on the television, and I picked up a wooden kitchen spoon and started swinging. My parents weren’t golfers, but they bought me a set of plastic clubs for Christmas that year. ● ● ● i played with my grandpa a bit, but i never got any proper instruction. None of my friends played. But our family lived near a course, and our extended family shared a weekend house that was near a course. Both were residentialcommunity courses where it was easy for a kid to play alone. I entered local tournaments and got pretty good fast. ● ● ● when i was 6, i traveled to virginia for the u.s. kids world championship. My mom cried when I made the putt to win my age group. All these people told me I had the potential to be great, and I think it was the first time my parents understood what I was capable of. But the cost to really do it right, to travel to all the most elite junior tournaments, was getting too expensive.

when i was 12, my parents decided we were moving to norway. Mostly to be closer to my mom’s family, but also, in part, for my golf. I told them they could go without me, that I’d stay in Mexico with my cousins. I’d developed more of a life there than my younger brothers. Of course, they weren’t having it. I was going to Norway. ● ● ● my parents enrolled me in a sports high school in oslo. Learning a new language while overcoming my shyness was tough, but I loved hanging out with athletes. Everyone was so focused. I had classmates going to the Olympics. I saw the discipline it takes to make it. Even though you’re young and not that mature, you can still control decisions—like what you eat and how much you sleep—that improve your performance. ● ● ● the norwegian team covered the expense of travel and coaches. Of course, golf in Norway has its drawbacks. For six months, we hit indoors. But we’d go to South Africa or Spain each winter to get on grass. Overall, moving to Norway was great for my game and our finances. ● ● ● i didn’t know much about oklahoma state when i committed. It proved to be a continuation of the top-athlete mentality of my high school. Everything we did was to get better at golf, and everyone wanted to play on the PGA Tour. We won the national championship in my fourth year. After I graduated, my plan was to make the Korn Ferry Tour. ● ● ● i played well in the pre-qualifying events. But 10 days before the final, four-round qualifying tournament, I woke up in the night with a terrible pain in my side: appendicitis. I asked the doctors to postpone the surgery two weeks. They just laughed. As I lay recovering, all I could think about was this tournament that was supposed to launch my career. If I withdrew, my chances of getting status were nonexistent. ● ● ● i didn’t touch a club until the day of the practice round. With the incision, I couldn’t make a full swing. My body was stiff, and I hit my driver about 250 yards and crooked. Every swing and every time I bent to read a putt was excruciating. The challenge was as much mental, thinking through the pain, trying to find a swing that could score. I’m proud that I finished, but two under beat only a couple guys in the field. I’d never felt more exhausted.

i struggled mentally trying to monday-qualify on korn ferry. Then I caught a break and received a sponsor’s exemption into the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by Synnex Corporation. Something clicked. I shot 16 under in the three-round event, finishing T-3. I earned enough points to guarantee starts and set my schedule. Finally a little relaxed, I won twice in four weeks. I finished the regular season fourth on the points list and got my PGA Tour card. My family came for the ceremony. It was the first time I’d seen them in seven months. My youngest brother had grown half a foot, and his voice was completely different. Time can pass quickly on tour. ● ● ● at first, all i thought about was keeping my card. But looking at how much money you make each week can drive you crazy. I’m now focusing on what I can control: eating well, sleeping well, practicing well. If I believe in what I’m doing, I can live with the outcome. That’s the approach I took when I had no status, and I need to regain that. I don’t want to look back and think, I could’ve done this; I should’ve done that. ● ● ● life can get lonely on tour. Except for a few times when my girlfriend came out, I’ve traveled by myself. Some weeks I’ve eaten dinner every night with Viktor Hovland, who was my high school and college teammate. His company reminds me how much I miss the team environment, where you’re practicing with people who really care about you and want you to do well. ● ● ● i like working hard. Having the opportunity to show you have what it takes and pulling it off—that’s as good as it gets.

—with keely levins