Jon Rahm has emerged as one of the best golfers in the world, but he is not that far removed from moving to the United States without speaking any English. Jon moved to the United States for college without knowing English, but was a quick learner of American culture. While at Arizona State, he met his girlfriend, Kelley Cahill, who was also a student-athlete. Jon’s parents, Edorta and Angela Rahm, believed in their son, and encouraged him to stretch himself by spending time in America.
“My dad literally just dropped me off at the airport, and said, ‘Goodbye, son. Let me know when you get there,'” Jon told Penn Live.
Jon grew up in the coastal town of Barrika, Spain where he learned to pick up golf after his parents decided to take up the sport. Jon’s father believed for his son to have a future in golf, he needed to be in the United States.
“My dad always told me the future of golf, especially my future, would be coming to the States,” Jon told Penn Live. “That’s something really impressive to think, because not many Spanish players that were my age came. … He said, ‘If you don’t like it, the worst that will happen is you can learn English.’ Turned out great for me. I had a great experience and became probably the best player I could be.”
Now, Jon’s parents and girlfriend are cheering him on as he tears up the PGA Tour.
Learn more about Jon’s family and his girlfriend, Kelley.
1. Jon Met His Girlfriend Kelley at Arizona State Where She Was on the Track & Field Team
Kelley is originally from Portland, Oregon. She Attended Arizona State where she met Jon as a student-athlete in Tempe. Kelley was on the track and field team where she threw the javelin. According to Arizona State, her personal best was 34.92 meters. Kelley finished second at the PVCC Outdoor with a throw of 34.69m, eighth at the 2013 Mesa Classic with a throw of 34.51m and 10th in the 2014 ASU Invitational where she threw for 33.49m.
Kelley and Jon like to compete in a variety of sports, but Kelley likes to think she is the top javelin thrower between the two of them.
“We’ll keep it in our heads that I’m better at javelin,” Kelley told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Because if there’s a very slight chance he can throw a javelin, I’ll just lose it.”
On an Instagram video, Kelley also showed off her ability to throw the football with a mean spiral.
2. Jon Is From Barrika, Spain
Jon grew up in Barrika, Spain a long way away from his first United States destination of Tempe, Arizona. Today’s Golfer described Barrika as “a small coastal town in northern Spain known for its fishing and surfing, is set as deep into the Basque country as you can possibly get.”
In Spain, golf legend Seve Ballesteros is revered, something not lost on Jon. He told The San Diego Union-Tribune there were only 20 golf courses and 17,000 golfers when Seve began his career. Now there are 360 courses and 300,000 golfers.
“The influence he had on people to play golf … the aura he had around him … that was something special,” Jon told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “…Those are the numbers [of golf participation] that matter in my mind. I’m trying to do the same thing. If I can get more people to play golf, that would be amazing.”
3. His Parents Learned to Play Golf After Attending the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama
Jon believes Seve had a big influence on his career as he was the captain on the 1997 Ryder Cup team his parents attended. According to Today’s Golfer, Edorta and Angela decided to learn how to play golf after attending the Ryder Cup.
“My dad was into extreme sports like free rock climbing, free skiing, massive mountain hiking and parasailing,” Jon told Today’s Golfer. “He and my mum hiked up Mont Blanc and came down skiing. Golf was so unlike him but somehow his friends convinced him. They all ended up trying it.”
4. Both Jon & Kelley Are Extremely Competitive & Love All Kinds of Sports
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Kelley decided to take Jon to the tennis courts to see how he would play. Kelley grew up playing tennis, and wanted to prove to Jon she had a solid tennis game. Jon ended up more than holding his own.
“He’s killing forehands … crosscourt zingers, and I’m thinking, ‘This can’t be right,’” Kelley told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “He was so good. I was so upset. I was actually mad for a day or two…We have not stepped foot on a tennis court since.”
Jon explained his side of the story, noting he wanted to prove he was more than just a golfer.
“She’s obviously a much better player than I am, but it was funny to see,” Jon told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “She learned a lesson. I’m not a pushover. I like playing sports. Anything related to my hands, I’m good at. She didn’t expect it.”
5. Jon’s First Flight to the United States Was to Check Into His Dorm Room & He Did Not Know English
Jon’s parents took a chance sending him to the United States, but his father tried to ease his anxiety assuring him it would be a good experience. According to PGA.com, Jon did not know any English, and his first trip to the United States was to check into his Arizona State dorm.
“So many parents make the mistake that kids are more than what they really are, and they give them too much confidence,” Jon told PGA.com. “My dad was always a few steps away from that. He always thought, ‘Get a degree, just in case.’ He said: ‘Go to the States. Stay there one year. If you hate it, the worst thing happening is you learn English, which is going to be good for you either way.’ I promised him I would get my degree.”
There were things Jon did not understand when he got to the States. He did not know he needed his own sheets for the bed. His first class was so big he thought there was a conference going on, and Jon thought he was in the wrong room. It all worked out as Jon scored a 3.6 GPA his first semester at Arizona State.
“How I got a 3.6 GPA my first semester, now that is a challenge,” Jon told PGA.com. “I don’t know how I did it. I couldn’t communicate for the first month. The second month was a little better. For the better part of the first year in college, I didn’t understand a single joke. For the better part of the second year, I couldn’t make a joke. Until my junior year, any funny part in me was nonexistent.”