WARREN - Jason Kokrak added some financial strength to his golf game as he prepares for a second season on the PGA Tour.
The John F. Kennedy graduate announced a partnership with Covelli Enterprises at the Covelli headquarters on Friday. Financial terms of the agreement weren't made available. The contract calls for Kokrak to wear a Panera Bread logo on his golf shirt during the 2013 season. Panera is owned by Covelli Enterprises.
Sam Covelli, owner/operator of Covelli Enterprises, wasn't able to attend the press conference. Kokrak thanked Covelli for lending support to his career.
Tribune Chronicle / Dana Sulonen
Warren native and PGA golfer Jason Kokrak, left, and Allen Ryan, right, director of corporate affairs for Covelli Enterprises, show the shirt Kokrak will wear as Covelli Enterprises will sponsor Kokrak on the tour this coming season.
"He's been one of the all-time great members of the community," Kokrak said. "He does a lot for the community by donating to different organizations and charities not only in Warren and Youngstown but in the northeastern Ohio area. It's going to be great for myself to represent what he represents and my community."
Kokrak was at his best late in the 2012 season. Needing a strong finish to be among the top 125 on the money list and maintain his playing card for another season, he finished second at the Frys.com Open. He went on to finish 119th in earnings.
"I made eight of my last 10 cuts and played solid in the latter part of the season," Kokrak said. "It's nice to stand out there under the gun and come through under that pressure. Making an eagle at 17 (at the Frys.com) was a big rush for me. My brother said he put a hole through the wall he was so excited."
Kokrak learned early last season how big of a step it is from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour. He got off to a good start by recording one of his two top-10 performances, finishing ninth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He ended up making 13 cuts in 27 tournaments.
Known for his length off the tee, Kokrak occasionally struggled in that facet of play, along with his approach game. There were times when his putter was his most dependable club.
"I've always prided myself on being a great ball striker," Kokrak said. "For as long and as far as I hit it, I hit the ball solid and straight. This year, you have your ups and downs. When your putting is off, you hit the ball well, but when you're hitting the ball bad your putting is on.
"The times when you win are when you can put it all together. My putting was definitely a key for me. I didn't putt great, but I eliminated the three putts and I made the key putts when I needed to make them."
Kokrak, who will begin play on the 2013 PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Honolulu Jan. 10-13, didn't make any major changes to his swing. He doesn't plan to change his clubs, preferring to stick with Cleveland Golf Clubs and equipment.
"One of the things a lot of the guys told me was "you don't want to make a lot of drastic changes,' " he said. "Don't sell out to the companies that want to pay you a little more. Cleveland is what got me to where I'm at and is why I signed with them for another three years. I look forward to working with them for a long time. They take care of me."
Having Covelli Enterprises as a sponsor will take some of the stress of daily living off Kokrak's shoulders.
"It helps that you can call on those people in times of need," Kokrak said. "Information and advice and things like that. It's not only the money that comes out of the sponsorship, but it's the friendships and the relationships that hopefully stand for a long time."
Allen Ryan, director of corporate affairs for Covelli Enterprises, views the sponsorship in a more personal way.
"When we're looking at the partnership, an important part of that - almost as much as the golf aspect - is what kind of character Jason has," Ryan said. "If you talk to anyone from the area that knows Jason, they'll tell you he's a good person. He fits in well with our overall philosophy."