AUGUSTA, Ga. – When Jon Rahm topped his second shot at the par-5 eighth hole and made a costly double bogey during the third round of the 2020 Masters in November, his wife, Kelley, bowed her head in shame and uttered a statement that turned out to be true. “It’s over for this Masters for him,” she said.
The patrons around her tried to console her and then she said something that was news to all. She was four months pregnant and their first baby’s due date was the weekend of the 2021 Masters. “Great timing, right?” she said.
Kepa Cahill Rahm decided to come early on April 3, weighing in at 7 lbs., 2 oz., meaning Jon, who declared on multiple occasions that he would fly back home for the delivery no matter where he stood in the tournament, is able to play in the 85th Masters.
“For so long I didn’t think I was going to be able to be here,” he said. “I thought I was just going to have to get the ticket back home (during the Masters), so I’m happy that she’s healthy. I’m happy that he is healthy. I’m grateful that they’re both doing great, and I’m really happy I can be here rested and ready to compete.”
Rahm, 26, didn’t arrive on site until Wednesday morning, jumping out of a car in front of the clubhouse and meeting with the media before he even registered for the tournament. Rahm was peppered with questions in both English and Spanish and answered with a new-found sense of calm.
He detailed how Kelley’s water broke on Friday around 10 a.m., before she began feeling contractions, that the labor lasted 6-7 hours and noted that he had spent the first few days of fatherhood staying up all night and changing diapers.
“It’s hard to describe. People have tried to, but it’s impossible until you experience yourself,” he said. “I definitely gained a whole new respect for women everywhere because what their body goes through, it’s something I like never want to experience because the amount of pain I saw is – it’s a lot.”
Rahm went on to explain the choice of the name (pronounced Kay-Pah), saying it wasn’t an homage to Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who plays for Premier League club Chelsea and the Spain national team.
“I do think a lot of people believe I’m a Chelsea fan now,” Rahm joked. “Kepa is Basque. It’s where I’m from in the Basque country, and when we were going through Basque names, because she agreed to honor my heritage that way, we just had to find one that she could pronounce, and that’s the one we came up with that she really liked, and we used Cahill as the middle name because in Spanish tradition usually your name, you take over your dad’s last name and your mom’s last name, and I didn’t want her to lose that, so that’s why we made his middle name her last name, and that’s what it is.”
Rahm said their nanny arrived Monday and he flew to Georgia on Tuesday afternoon following Kepa’s first visit with the pediatrician. He landed in Augusta around 6:30 p.m. He first had to take his COVID-19 test and became the last of the 88 players in the field to register shortly after 10 a.m. Now he’s turning his attention to prepping for an Augusta National course that is expected to play vastly differently from the one that he played in November. Rahm is aware of all the reasons why it could be difficult for the No. 3-ranked golfer in the world to be a factor this week in a tournament many feel he’s destined to win.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 7, 2021
“I’m coming to a Masters, and from Thursday to Monday didn’t sleep much, didn’t hit a single golf shot. You know, maybe haven’t prepared as much as I have in the past,” he said. “But definitely mentally in a different state, right. A lot of times practicing for a major you spend so much time thinking about golf, and for four or five days, it wasn’t even on my mind, which is kind of refreshing.”
Rahm is grouped with Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy, another new father, in the opening two rounds.
“My first round as a dad, I shot 64, so he’s got that to live up to,” joked McIlroy of his first round at the Tour Championship in September 2019 after the birth of daughter Poppy. “He’s probably just had the greatest few days of his life, right…I don’t feel like that’s going to distract him at all. I think he’s had a great few days and everything’s good. If you can sort of just keep that mindset going into this week, then you know, being here and being relaxed and maybe having your mind not fully on Augusta and the Masters and the green jacket is not a bad thing.”
With a smile fixed to his face, Rahm radiated the joy of a new proud papa. He will try to follow in the footsteps of 2016 champion Danny Willett, whose wife, Nicole, gave birth to the couple’s first child just a week before the Masters.
“I’m not concerned. I went through a major life experience. If anything I’m just happier,” Rahm said. “Coming here later than usual, but I’m here ready to compete. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
He added: “I’ve always said I’m a competitor before a golfer.”