Kohles wins NCHI in first professional start

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July 29, 2012
Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ben Kohles rolled in a 22-foot birdie on the first playoff hole to beat Luke Guthrie and win the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in his first professional start.

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Kohles, the 54-hole leader, birdied two of his final three holes in regulation to finish at 12-under 272 and force a playoff with Guthrie, who minutes earlier rolled in nearly the exact same putt for birdie on his 72nd hole to shoot a 5-under 66 and take temporary possession of the clubhouse lead.

Kohles and Guthrie, both college All-Americans this past year, returned to the 439-yard 18th hole for the tournament's second playoff in six years.

Guthrie, who played at Illinois, missed his birdie try from 25 feet and then watched as Kohles became the 13th player in Web.com Tour history to win in his first Tour start.

Kohles becomes the first player to win a Web.com Tour event in his first pro start. After finishing T18 at the Porter Cup in New York a week ago, Kohles came to Columbus and checked the box labeled "professional" on his registration form.

"It's absolutely a dream come true," said Kohles, who, unlike the other first-time winners before him, had no prior professional experience. "What more can you ask for in your first pro event than to win? It's still a bit of shock and I'm not sure it's all sunk in yet."

With the win Kohles becomes the third collegian or former collegian to win this event since it began in 2007. Daniel Summerhays had just completed his junior year at BYU when he won the inaugural event. Harris English was barely out of his graduation gap and gown from Georgia when he birdied the final hole last year to win as an amateur.

Kohles isn't an amateur anymore but he's as close as it gets. He also one-ups Summerhays and English by collecting the $144,000 first-place check, the second-largest on Tour.

"Coming straight out of college I didn't have any money to my name but I guess I have some now," he said with a laugh.

Kohles moves from nowhere to No. 13 on the Tour money list. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will earn their PGA TOUR cards for 2013.

For his runner-up finish Guthrie pockets $86,400, which he can add to the $284,672 he's won in three PGA TOUR starts since finishing up his college career at Illinois.

"There are a lot of good college players out there and a lot of good college programs," said Guthrie. "When we get out here we relish the moment. It's our chance to play well and show what we've got."

Kohles certainly showed plenty of moxie. The 22-year-old started the final round at the Scarlet Course at Ohio State University with a two-stroke lead but fell into a jumbled leaderboard when he stumbled with bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6.

Several challenged for the lead but nobody was able to break free from the pack.

Casey Wittenberg, the Tour's only two-time winner this year, looked like he'd make it three wins when he birdied No. 16 to get to 12-under par but was done in by a bogey on the next and then missed his shot at birdie on the last.

Wittenberg shot a 68 but wound up one shot back along with veteran Cliff Kresge (69). Penn State's Kevin Foley birdied his final two holes for a 66 and a 10-under total, good for solo fifth. Aaron Watkins shot an even-par 71 for sixth place, three off the pace.

Fourth-Round Notes

• Sunday weather: mostly sunny, winds NNE 5-10 mph with a high of 86.

Victorious in first Web.com Tour event (13):
Mike Springer 1990 Bakersfield Open
Buddy Gardner 1990 Panama City Beach Classic
Ted Tryba 1990 Gateway Open
Lindy Miller 1990 Amarillo Open
P.H. Horgan III 1991 Yuma Open
Gary McCord 1991 Gateway Open
Angel Franco 1993 Dominion Open
Stuart Appleby 1995 Monterrey Open
Gavin Coles 2002 Jacobs Creek Open
Chris Nallen 2004 Gila River Golf Classic
Kyle Reifers 2006 Chattanooga Classic
Miguel Carballo 2007 Movistar Panama Championship
Ben Kohles 2012 Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational

• Ben Kohles becomes the 13th player in Tour history to win in his first Tour start:

Player Win in first Web.com Tour start Prior professional experience
Mike Springer 1990 Bakersfield Open 3 PGA TOUR starts (1 as an am)
Buddy Gardiner 1990 Panama City Beach Classic PGA TOUR member 1978-89
Ted Tryba 1990 Gateway Open 7 PGA TOUR starts (4 in 1990)
Lindy Miller 1990 Amarillo Open 146 PGA TOUR starts (beg. 1977)
P.H. Horgan III 1991 Yuma Open 66 PGA TOUR starts including Pebble Beach Pro-Am 1 week before win
Gary McCord 1991 Gateway Open PGA TOUR member since 1974
Angel Franco 1993 Dominion Open 1st Tour-sanctioned start; Turned pro in 1974; Several wins in S. America
Stuart Appleby 1995 Monterrey Open 1st Tour-sanctioned start; Turned pro 1992; Asian Tour and Australasian Tour 93-94
Gavin Coles 2002 Jacobs Creek Open 1st-Tour sanctioned start; 51 Australasian Tour starts
Chris Nallen 2004 Gila River Classic 3 PGA TOUR starts in '04
Kyle Reifers 2006 Chattanooga Classic 1st-Tour sanctioned start; Won mini-tour event one week earlier
Miguel Carballo 2007 Movistar Panama Championship 1st-Tour sanctioned start; Turned pro in 2002; Won European Challenge Tour event 05
Ben Kohles 2012 Nationwide Childrens Hosp. Inv. 1st professional start of any kind

• Kohles becomes the first player to win a Web.com Tour event in his first pro start. The other 12 winners all had various amounts of professional experience before they made their Tour debut. The one with the least amount of pro experience was Kyle Reifers, who turned pro after graduation and won a mini-tour event in his first pro start. Reifers followed up the next week by Monday qualifying at the Chattanooga Classic and then going on to win that tournament too.

• Casey Wittenberg (T3) collects a check for $46,400 and pushes his season total to $288,083 to move to No. 1 on the money list for the first time in his career. Wittenberg supplants Paul Haley (m/c) in the top spot.

• Wittenberg has now made 14 starts this year and made the cut nine times. He has six top-25 finishes and four top-10s.

• By virtue of his fith-place finish this week, Penn State grad Kevin Foley earned enough money to qualify for Special Temporary Membership on the Web.com Tour. Foley came into the week with $35,984 in three previous starts. He needed to attain the equivalent of No. 100 on the 2011 money list -- Dawie van der Walt's $43,293. Foley earned $32,000 and his current total is $67,984. He moved from No. 78 to No. 44 on the money list. He will have conditional status for the remainder of the year and will also be subject to the category reshuffle.

• By finishing solo second, Luke Guthrie also earns Special Temporary Membership on the Web.com Tour for the rest of this year. Guthrie's check for $86,400 vaulted him to No. 33 on the money list.

Player College Score Position
Blayne Barber Auburn 69-71-71-71--282 T33
Luke Guthrie Illinois 72-65-69-66--272 P2
Ben Kohles Virginia 66-69-67-70--272 P1
Jordan Speith (a) Texas 71-67-70-77--285 T44
Cory Whitsett (a) Alabama 70-70-70-75--285 T44

• Five of the collegians/former collegians made the 36-hole cut this week:

• Guthrie turned professional earlier this year after the NCAA Championship. Guthrie won three times during the year and was a Second-Team All-American at Illinois, where he was also a two-time winner of the Big 10 Championship. Guthrie won the 2011 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate tournament on the Scarlet Course here at OSU.

Since turning pro Guthrie has made three PGA TOUR starts -- T19 FedEx St. Jude Classic, T5 John Deere Classic and T18 True South Classic -- and earned $284,672 in the process.

Guthrie was making his fourth professional start this week.

His only other start on the Web.com Tour came in this event in 2011 when he missed the cut.

8 top-10 finishes in five years At least one top-10 each year  
Daniel Summerhays (a) 2007 Won
Harris English (a) 2011 Won
Rickie Fowler (a) 2009 P2
John Peterson (a) 2011 T2
Sihwan Kim (a) 2008 T6
Morgan Hoffman (a) 2009 T8
Morgan Hoffman (a) 2010 T9
Peter Uihlein (a) 2011 T9

• For the first time since the tournament started, no amateurs finished in the top-10.

2007 Daniel Summerhays (a) shared 36-hole lead at 5-under with Jason Allred; shared 54-hole lead at 4-under with Chris Nallen; won the tournament at 6-under by two strokes
2009 Rickie Fowler (a) shared the 36-hole lead at 7-under with Joe Daley and Dave Schultz
2011 John Peterson (a) held the 18-hole lead by 1 at 7-under 64; held the 36-hole lead by 1 at 11-under; held the 54-hole lead by 1 at 14-under
  Harris English (a) won the tournament at 14-under by one stroke
2012 Ben Kohles held the 54-hole lead by 2 at 11-under; won the tournament in a playoff

• Collegians/former collegians who have held/shared the lead in this event over the first six years:

Round Front 9 (36) Back (35) Total (71) Cumulative
R1 36.042 35.271 71.313 --
R2 35.528 35.250 70.778 --
R3 35.661 35.210 70.871 --
R4 36.194 35.548 71.742 71.124

• Scoring averages for the week:

• The Web.com Tour will move to Omaha, Neb., for next week's Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha at Champions Run (July 30 -- August 5).

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