Monday, January 24

Jon Rahm, the boy who won a big | sports


Jon Rahm started winning the US Open when he was a child playing at the Larrabea golf club in Álava. His parents, Angela and Edorta, had rented a house for the weekends and summer within the club and the younger of the two brothers forgot to eat and drink while practicing for hours on the putting green in front of the terrace. It was often done at night, until the club manager would send him home almost as if he was punishing him. Eduardo Celles, his first personal trainer, especially remembers when the boy suddenly released him on a car journey, with a firmness that left him frozen, that he was going to be number one in the world. “We will have to work,” he challenged. And again he was impressed with the determination of that burly boy from Barrika (Bizkaia) who had practiced soccer, canoeing and kung fu until golf got into his veins. On one occasion Celles instructed him to practice 100 putts as an exercise. “I’ve done 850,” Rahm blurted out the next time they met. The coach thought the teenager was wavering him. Until when he went to the green of Larrabea he saw some marks on the grass. They were Jon Rahm’s footprints. He had been kicking for so long that the shape of his shoes had become etched.

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And from Larrabea to Torrey Pines. “Those putts that I made in the last two holes I have thrown millions of times in Larrabea. I knew I could put them in, I had a lot of confidence, “Rahm explained Sunday night about the two birdies in a row in the 17th and 18th with which he clinched the title at the US Open, his first major, his greatest sporting success at age 26 , adorned with the return to number one in the world rankings. Two putts like those 850. “Today it was the same kid who was thinking about winning a big one again, and I let that kid throw the last two putts,” Rahm said.

“I have told Adam [Hayes, su caddie], when we were at the end. Let’s go for it. I know that the US Open is a tournament that is often won by making fewer mistakes, but I also know that you have to go for the big ones, you have to attack if you want to win them and that is what I have done in the last holes ”, Rahm explained about his ambitious strategy in that section where the champions are decided. Rather than being conservative, the Basque went all-in, down to six under par and sent all the pressure on South African Louis Oosthuizen, the only rival to keep up his pace, one stroke away with four holes to play. He could no longer reach him and Jon Rahm became the first Spaniard to achieve the American Open, the ninth Grand Slam crown for Spanish golf after the five achieved by Seve Ballesteros (British Open in 1979, 84 and 88 and Masters 80 and 83), the double in Augusta by José María Olazabal (1994 and 99) and the green jacket by Sergio García (2017).

“I have always believed what I can achieve. It’s not that I’m a cool person, it’s that I know what I’m capable of ”, he explained; “For those like me, who have that anger inside, you have to be who you are on the golf course, but don’t be affected by the person you are outside. I wish I had understood how to change sooner. It happened as it had to. The birth of my son has helped me. I have that anger and that competitiveness, but now I am more serene on the field. One day you look in the mirror and notice the change. I am not proud of many things that I have done on the golf course, but without those moments I would not be who I am now ”.

Jon Rahm speaks of Kepa, his son, born on April 3, shortly before the Augusta Masters (the day of the final cup between his Athletic and Real Sociedad) and that, he says, in such a short time has already changed him. Especially by putting down the bad times. Thus he turned into “something positive” the enormous disappointment of two weeks ago in the Jack Nickalus tournament, when he had to leave at the end of the third day, with the title almost in his hands, because he had been infected with covid. Rahm isolated himself at home, practiced on the simulator, and suffered especially because he could not be present at the moment when his parents finally met his grandson. Rahm had not seen them for over a year, until they were able to travel to the United States. Just right for the tournament where Jon made history.

The scene was “fairy tale”, as the protagonist had tears in his eyes. Seconds after making the last putt, the wild Rahm who celebrated with passion and fists in the air that birdie that was worth half the US Open became Dad Jon who gently held his baby in his arms and did not stop kissing him on the head. Next to him was his wife, Kelley Cahill, and his parents. The family united precisely in that field of Torrey Pines, in San Diego, California, a magical place. It was there that Rahm scored his first professional victory, the Farmers Insurance Open on the American circuit in January 2017, and there he got engaged to Kelley. “It has been very special to win this great with three generations of Rahm in the field, my father, my son and me. I wanted Kepa to be proud of what I have done ”.

It is that paternity that has sealed a maturity process that in Rahm, like many other things in his life (leaving Barrika for the Blume in Madrid, then making the leap to university in the United States), has been a lesson at full speed . “Jon is a super mature guy for his age. He knows what he wants, when and how, and having a child has awakened feelings that he soon transferred to the golf course ”, explains his mental trainer, Joseba del Carmen.

From covid to success

“His maturity goes back a long time. Confinement, a child … Having a family impacts. We have worked on the frustration and anger and a change in putting has made him have more confidence and energy to compete how he likes. Jon is a winner, he will be brave, he will take risks. Now you have found the point and squared everything. The example is how he has dealt with testing positive for covid, without complaining, turning it over from calm. And all being true to himself, with character and with that anger of his. He has used that to compete ”, completes Del Carmen.

That human and sentimental part also came out when, in the moment of greatest happiness, he remembered the journalist José Manuel Cortizas, Corti, recently deceased by covid, a friend of the family: “He would have loved to write this story.”

A story that began in Larrabea. There, Jon Rahm’s club of friends has about 300 members. On one of the walls of the club, in a corner of the cafeteria, the hero’s souvenirs hang. A pennant from his first Augusta Masters, another from his first British Open, the results card from his last amateur championship, precisely a US Open, in 2016 … and the driver with which he won his first professional tournament. It was at Torrey Pines in San Diego. It was where this Sunday became great. He was kicking like a child.

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