It's probably safe to say that the past week has been quite a life-changing experience for Ben Kohles.
The week before Columbus, the 22-year old competed as an amateur in the Porter Cup near Buffalo, N.Y. (T18). When the chance to play in the Web.com Tour's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational came about, he elected to turn professional.
An opening-round 66 put the University of Virginia product in contention and come Sunday, he was holding the winner's trophy after making a birdie on the first hole of a playoff to defeat fellow All-American Luke Guthrie of the University of Illinois. Birdies on two of the final three holes of regulation got him into the playoff. Kohles became the first player to win a Web.com Tour event in his first pro start. Just like that he finds himself in the thick of "The 25" race at No. 13.
"Coming straight out of college I didn't have any money to my name but I guess I have some now," Kohles said with a laugh.
TOUR WELCOMES NEW MEMBERS: Kohles is the newest exempt member of the Web.com Tour. The Cary, N.C., resident earned membership in the "Tournament Winners" category through 2013. Both Guthrie and Penn State grad Kevin Foley earned Special Temporary Membership in Columbus. They will have conditional status for the remainder of 2012. Kohles moved to 13th on the money list, while Guthrie and Foley are now 33rd and 44th, respectively. All three are entered in this week's Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha.
GUTHRIE GOING STRONG, TOO: Guthrie has been making a name for himself in the professional ranks since closing out his college/amateur career late this spring. The 22-year old from D.A. Weibring's hometown of Quincy, Ill., played in three PGA TOUR events in June and July, finishing T19 (FedEx St. Jude Classic), T5 (John Deere Classic) and T18 (True South Classic). Including his second-place finish on the Web.com Tour last week, Guthrie has collected more than $371,000 in those four starts.
NEW NO. 1, CASEY WITTENBERG: The Web.com Tour has a new No. 1 in Casey Wittenberg. The two-time 2012 winner came close to earning his third win in Columbus and an immediate promotion to the PGA TOUR. A T3 finish pushed him ahead of Paul Haley II, who held the top spot for four weeks. Wittenberg now has a $42,185 advantage over Haley.
MORGAN HOFFMANN BID FALLS SHORT: Former Oklahoma State University All-American Morgan Hoffmann missed the cut at Ohio State's Scarlet Course and failed in his attempt to earn Special Temporary Membership. The New Jersey native needed $4,008 last week to do so. With no Tour status, he will have to continue entering Monday qualifiers or get sponsor exemptions in an effort to earn the necessary money.
CHALK UP ANOTHER "W": With Scott Piercy's win at the RBC Canadian Open, Web.com Tour alums have now collected seven of the last eight titles on the PGA TOUR, with Piercy's victory being the 339th overall. Alumni representation was very strong among the leaders last week in Canada. The top-three finishers and 11 of the top 14 were former Tour players.
FOCUSING ON THE FINISH: Typically Web.com Tour fields get very strong at this time of year with player focus on "The 25" getting keener and keener. The Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha field has all top 10 players, 24 of the top 25 and 90 of the top 100 entered. These figures mirror very closely the field numbers for the other Midwest swing events in Columbus, Ohio, Springfield, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., based on commitments.
GOING LOW IN OMAHA: The Cox Classic has been on the Web.com Tour since 1996 and every champion but two has posted a winning score of -20 or better at the host Champions Run Club, which has been either a par 71 or 72. The lowest score was 258 (-26) by Chris Smith in 1997. Bo Van Pelt won the 2003 tournament with another 26-under score (262). More than a few Web.com Tour records have been established at Champions Run: Smith's 258 was the Tour's low 72-hole score at the time (subsequently bettered)...in 2005, Jason Gore shot one of only three 59s in Tour history...in 2003, Chip Beck recorded one of three Tour aces on a par-4, at the 9th...Smith's 11-shot victory in 1997 set a record (subsequently equaled)...and Jason Day's 125 total (62-63) in 2007 equaled the Tour record for low 36 holes in consecutive rounds (subsequently bettered by one shot).
BIG DRAW: The Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha annually draws the largest crowds on Tour. Last year's attendance was 113,000. A myriad of activities is planned for tournament week, including Youth Day on Tuesday, Ladies Day on Wednesday and Military Appreciation events. Bands perform Wednesday through Saturday nights after play at "The 19th Hole". Thursday night will feature country music band Cactus Hill, and a mechanical bull for the more adventurous patrons. National recording artist Kelley James appears on Saturday night.
WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF?: Since the Web.com Tour instituted its battlefield promotion (three wins in one season) in 1997 season there have been nine players who have benefited from it. Three of those nine promotions have come at the Cox Classic (1997-Chris Smith, 2001-Heath Slocum, 2005-Jason Gore). Casey Wittenberg is sitting on two wins. He came close last week in Columbus (T3). Might he be the fourth to earn the promotion in Omaha? His history at Champions Run is mixed -- T6 in 2008 and missed cuts in 2010 and 2011.
HEADING TO THE BALLPARK: Paul Haley II (No. 2 on the money list) and Andres Gonzales (No. 4) are scheduled to throw out the first pitch on Wednesday evening at the Omaha Stormchasers vs. Reno Aces baseball game. Omaha is the Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate. Reno is affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
DID YOU KNOW?: 1) On Sunday, Ben Kohles became the third collegian invitee to win the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational since the tournament began in 2007 (Daniel Summerhays/2007 and Harris English/2011). There have also been three college runners-up in Rickie Fowler (2009), John Peterson (2011) and Luke Guthrie (2012).
2) There were no playoffs in the first eight tournaments of 2012. There have been four in the last seven.
BIRTHDAY BOYS: Celebrating a birthday this week in Omaha is Omar Uresti (Aug. 3rd/turns 44).
NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads south from Omaha into Missouri for the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper at Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield (Aug. 9-12).