There is a constant in Jon Rahm for everything he does. He wants to be the best. The same competitive vein beats playing the US Open as sharing a game of mus with friends when he returns home for Christmas. He exudes self-confidence, and he laughs thinking that some consider him a bilbainada. In truth, it is faith that gave Eduardo Celles, his coach, the goosebumps when, during a car trip, the student told him without a tremor of doubt that he would be number one in the world. The boy was 13 years old. Jon Rahm set out to be the best and he has been. He swore to win a big one and he fulfilled it. In the race he has jumped every obstacle, from being born with a club foot to suffering with English. He today he is not only one of the best Spanish athletes and a solid inhabitant in the golf elite at 27 years old. His passionate loyalty to the American circuit (PGA Tour) in the war against the Saudi league has reinforced him as a reference and leader also outside the green.
It is shocking that the best defense of the American product was not made by a man of the house, but by a Basque from Barrika who, when he arrived at the University of Arizona, barely knew how to speak English. “He’s not going to get it. He’ll probably be out of here after the first semester,” he told his assistant Tim Mickelson, Phil’s brother and coach of the Sun Devils golf team. He did not know that this young man was not going to give up so easily. The ability to overcome was in his DNA since he was born with his right foot turned 90 degrees. When the doctors placed him in the arms of his parents, Ángela and Edorta, after the first care, the baby’s leg was in a cast. A fight began that took him twice to the operating room and that forged an iron character. He played soccer goalkeeper, because he had less strength in that limb, and he practiced all kinds of sports. There was never a limitation in his mind. When golf crossed his path (after the 1997 Ryder his father took up golf), Jon changed his love. His right leg, shorter and thinner, has led him to a swing special.
If he didn’t know English, he wasn’t going to give up his dream because of that. She had already hardened her heart when, at the age of 16, she left the house of his parents and his brother, Eriz, six years older than him, to fly to the Blume residence in Madrid. He was now going to convince Tim Mickelson that he was wrong. The recipe went through music. “My father has always told me that the future of golf is in the United States. There are not many Spanish golfers who come to the university, but he picked me up and said: ‘The worst thing that can happen to you is that you learn English,’” Rahm recalls of those years. “I knew some of the language, but the hardest part was the pronunciation. And that’s where rap comes in. That’s a lot of very fast words. If I could learn that, anything was possible.” Love the way you lie, of Eminem, and swimming pools, by Kendrick Lamar, started playing over and over again. “It took me four years to know it all,” the Basque relives about Lamar’s lyrics.
The boy progressed. Tim Mickelson forbade him to speak Spanish with a Mexican classmate at university. The punishment was a squat and a push-up for every word he heard them say in Spanish. Meeting Kelley Cahill was another blessing. Biology student, javelin thrower, Kelley was dressed as an NFL referee when she saw Jon at a costume party. He was a SWAT agent. Little by little, that difficult life of arrival in the United States gave way to a happy comfort. If with English progress had been slow, with golf clubs it was lightning. She soon began practicing with Phil Mickelson, with whom she even crossed 18-hole bets even though Rahm only had $40 in his pocket. It was win or win. And he won, leaving the champion speechless.
The pieces have been fitting together until completing a profound transformation. The teenager who listened to Eminem is today married to Kelley Cahill, is the father of a son born in the United States, Kepa, and they are expecting a brother in August. An American manager, Jeff, keeps his agenda, and the figure of his caddy, Adam Hayes, has been another important link for its stability. Today Rahm manages wonderfully in that English that choked him. His firm speech last Tuesday in defense of the PGA Tour permeated the circuit and the American press. “Yes, the money is great, but will my lifestyle change if I get $400 million? Nope, not a bit. I have never played for money, I play for the love of the sport, for history and legacy, and I want to play against the best”, argued Rahm. So natural is the language for him that when the Spanish federation asked him to send a video in support of the National Open, he sent it in English.
Among the fans, Rahmbo is one of their favorite players, acclaimed in Brookline at this US Open. Another issue is his focus on television broadcasts in the United States. Despite his rank of number two in the world, and habitually at the top of the rankings in many tournaments, there are times when his shots are barely shown on the broadcasts. Even at this American Open, which he entered as defending champion, his opening day on Thursday was not among the featured groups picked up by national television. The Basque expressed a certain feeling of discrimination in June 2020: “As a Hispanic immigrant in the United States, although I am not even close to experiencing what some people have suffered in this world, I have been able to verify how by the mere fact of speaking Spanish, even with myself, they have looked at me badly and contemptuously.
Jon Rahm writes a diary. He helps you clear your mind. Those first pages written in Spanish today can be fluent writings in English.
Also a speaker against racism
Tiger Woods broke a racial barrier but golf remains a majority white sport. The Masters, for example, did not honor Lee Elder, the first black to play in Augusta (1975), who recently died, until two years ago.
Rahm also took a stand against racism in 2020 when the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer shook the United States and generated the Black Lives Matter movement. “I invite my colleagues to support the causes to eliminate hate, intolerance and racism. I love to look beyond the ropes and see the diversity of faces, men and women, young and old. Let’s continue to support our African-American community and accept our differences, ”Rahm published on his social networks, joining the citizen demands in the country that he has adopted. Rahm accompanied his message with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they learn to hate, they can be taught to love, since love comes more naturally to the human heart.”
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Jon Rahm, from learning English with Eminem to leader in the US
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