11 October 2017

The Spanish Prodigy

Just over a year after turning pro, Jon Rahm has developed into a major force on the PGA Tour. An avid golfer from the age of 10, Rahm's talents are going from strength to strength as he continues his rise to the very top.

Earlier this year, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who Jon Rahm was. After claiming the Low Amateur title at the US Open last year, Jon was just another new professional fighting to make his mark. Starting the year at 136th in the rankings, Rahm moved to 46th after he won Farmers Insurance then a mere five months later the Spaniard was suddenly World No. 8 after claiming the Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open title. The 22-year-old player was catapulted to the forefront of golf fans attention and became a viable contender for Major titles.

Although he seemed to appear almost overnight, Rahm actually began his professional career after the 2016 US Open. Since then, he’s collected two professional titles from two tours: the PGA Tour and European Tour. According to the Official World Golf Ranking, he’s played in 30 professional events, managing 12 Top 10 finishes to go along with his two wins, and has only missed the cut three times. It’s an undoubtedly impressive start to his professional journey, and we’re sitting up and taking note with some interesting facts about Rahm:

What were Rahm’s amateur achievements?
In 2011 Rahm won the Copa Baleares amateur tournament. During his time at college playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils (2012-2016), Rahm collected 11 college titles, just behind Phil Mickelson’s 16 wins whilst he was a Sun Devil from 1988-92. Rahm also became the first two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award for the nation’s top collegiate golfer and received the 2016 Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award which honors the top player in college golf. Rahm holds the all-time record for most weeks spent at No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings; on top for 60 weeks. His last achievement as an amateur was Low Amateur at the 2016 US Open, his second title in a professional tournament after he also won the 2015 Waste Management Open.

What’s the story behind Rahm’s adventure from Spain to U.S.A?
Five years ago, Rahm was a dominant junior golfer in Spain who had just graduated from high school. He was planning to go to Madrid to continue his education but his parents received an email offering him a scholarship to Arizona State University (ASU). Tim Mickelson, who is ASU’s men's golf coach and younger brother of Phil Mickelson, was told about Jon’s talents by a friend in Spain and sent the email. It’s rare to recruit a player sight unseen, but Tim trusted this friend and his gut. Just a day after sending the email, he received a reply from Jon and his father accepting the offer. It was the start of Rahm’s journey towards the States.

In his first year at Arizona State in the United States, Rahm could barely speak English, but he broke down the language barrier quickly. How did he do that? 
Jon learned English from two “teachers”: rappers Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. He memorized their tracks, especially two of his favorite songs — Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie, and Lamar’s Swimming Pools. “Memorizing rap songs in English helped me out a lot to pronounce and actually understand what was going on and keeping up with people in conversation,”  said Rahm, as quoted by USA Today.

“You can look [those songs] up. They're good.”

Rahm’s coach, Tim Mickelson, also provided some necessary motivation for him to learn English. What did Tim do?
Mickelson told Rahm and his fellow Spanish teammate, Alberto Sanchez, that he would give them a penalty for every Spanish word they uttered while around the rest of the team. They’d have to do a burpee – the challenging plyometric exercise – for every Spanish word. “So you say a sentence that has 10 words, you're making 10 burpees. And they're not easy, they're tiring,” said Rahm. “It ended up bad for Alberto.”

In his Arizona State bio, Rahm wrote that his dad is the person who had the greatest influence on his career. Why?
Rahm always remembers his father telling him that the future of golf would be coming to the States. "That's something really impressive to think about because not many Spanish players that were my age came. ... 'If you don't like it, the worst that will happen is you can learn English,’” said Rahm. “Turned out great for me.”

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