Twenty-five years after becoming the first graduate to earn a full US college scholarship, Craig Hocknull is hoping to lean on fellow Kooralbyn International alumni Adam Scott and Jason Day as he makes his Major debut at this week’s US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in Missouri.
While the usual names of Scott, Day, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith will represent Australia in the year’s final Major, Hocknull had to make a special request for the Australian flag to also sit beside his name.
Born in Papua New Guinea before moving with his family to Adelaide at 2 years of age, Hocknull also spent time in Darwin before completing his schooling at Kooralbyn west of the Gold Coast, his parents encouraging his pursuit of a career as a professional golfer.
By winning his way through to the field at Bellerive courtesy of finishing tied for 12th at the PGA Professional Championship in June, Hocknull is the third Kooralbyn graduate in the field and is eager to orchestrate a mini school reunion prior to Thursday.
“I have reached out to Jason through a mutual friend to see if we could do anything,” Hocknull told Australian Golf Digest after playing nine holes at Bellerive on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ll show up the next couple of days and see if we can sort something out on the range.
“I think it would be great (to play a practice round together) but I don’t have any illusions that those guys would want to play a round with me.
“I’m here to play my best and focus on what I’m trying to do and although it would be great to play with them I don’t know that will actually happen.
“It would be good to try and get us together for at least a picture or something.”
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After completing four years of college at Jackson State University in Mississippi in 1997, Hocknull had eyes on sharing golf’s biggest stage with an emerging talent by the name of Tiger Woods but had his path to life on tour curtailed by a wrist injury.
He spent time on both the Canadian and Web.com tours from 2011-2013 but it was as a teaching professional where Hocknull made his name.
Named the Golf Digest Best in State Teacher for Arizona in 2015 and 2016, Hocknull was a National PGA Award finalist for player development in 2015 and is a Class A Member with the PGA of America in both teaching and player development.
He also earned his PGA of Australia Membership in a way of honouring the influence PGA Members such as Alex Kippen, Brian Crafter and Peter Claughton had on his development and was adamant that he wanted to represent Australia this week despite making America his home for more than 20 years.
“They originally had my name with an American flag and I requested that they switch it,” said Hocknull, who will play with American Austin Cook and Sweden’s Alexander Bjork in the opening two rounds.
“I am an Australian citizen, I don’t have dual citizenship. It’s fine when I compete locally that they say that I’m out of Gilbert, Arizona but I felt that on a world stage that I wanted to have the Aussie flag by my name and they were able to accommodate that.
“I wanted to represent Australia because all of the great PGA professionals that helped me.
“Alex Kippen was my very first PGA Professional at Darwin Golf Club and then on to Brian Crafter and Peter Claughton at Kooralbyn.
“There were just so many PGA professionals that had an impact on me in Australia and I just felt that if I was ever going to move back to Australia at some point and that would be a great membership to have.
“I valued the qualifications of the PGA Membership of Australia so it was important it was something that I wanted to do.”